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Cooper signs K-12 COVID response bill

Gov. Roy Cooper on Monday signed a bill that allows North Carolina public school districts to switch individual schools and classrooms to remote learning if necessary due to COVID-19 exposures that result in quarantines or staff shortages.

Additionally, Senate Bill 654 — a wide-ranging bill covering an array of K-12 COVID-19 response topics — requires school boards to vote once a month on whether their respective mask policies should be modified.

Due to rising COVID-19 metrics, the Beaufort County Schools Board of Education implemented a mask mandate for students and staff after initially voting to make masks optional. The school board already committed to reviewing its mask policy on a monthly basis.

The Raleigh News & Observer reported Tuesday that Graham County became the state’s 46th district to reverse course after making masks optional. The N&O said 99 school districts (82% of NC students) were requiring masks as of Tuesday afternoon, and 16 districts (9% of students) still had masks optional.

S.B. 654 also waives the requirement for districts to receive performance grades based on test scores for the 2020-21 school year.  Report cards for public school districts will still be released, using data that only meets the minimum accountability, school identification, and related reporting requirements of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA).