On Wednesday, DHHS updated the StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit based on updated CDC guidance and guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The following are updated mask recommendations for NC K-12 schools:
- Elementary and middle schools should require all students and staff to wear masks indoors
- High schools should require all unvaccinated students and staff to wear masks indoors
Additionally, Governor Roy Cooper announced that Executive Order 220, which requires masks to be worn in schools, will expire at the end of July. This means that mask requirements in schools will now be decided by local school boards. It is unclear what impact the updated DHHS guidance and the expiring of E.O. 220 will have on SB 173: Free the Smiles Act, which, if passed, would require local school boards that have adopted a mask mandate policy to vote at least once a month on whether to repeal or modify the policy. (As a reminder, only people age 12 and older can currently receive the COVID-19 vaccine.)
The Toolkit still recommends requiring everyone on school buses to wear a mask. In addition to the modified mask guidance, the Toolkit is now organized into categories that prioritize the implementation of strategies proven to be most effective in lowering the risk of COVID-19 exposure and spread. Click here for an article on the updated DHHS guidance.
- Updated StrongSchoolsNC Toolkit
- Summary of recent changes to the Toolkit
- Vaccine Operational Guidance for Schools
On Wednesday, a new public school athletics bill, HB 91: Accountability and Fair Play in Athletics, was approved by the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee. The bill, as presented, would have allowed home school students to participate in athletics at the student’s base school. But prior to the Committee vote, an amendment was adopted that replaced that provision with a study on the implications of home school students’ participation in interscholastic athletics. We would like to thank school board members and superintendents who contacted Senate Education Committee members with concerns about this provision. Your efforts played a role in making this substantial change to HB 91. We would also like to thank Senators Todd Johnson, Tom McInnis, and Vickie Sawyer for bringing forth the amendment.
HB 91 was also approved by the Senate Finance Committee, following the removal of a section that allowed needs-based public school capital fund grants to be used for athletic facilities. The main objective of HB 91 is to replace the NC High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) with a new 17-member NC Interscholastic Athletic Commission. Bill presenters explained that they have been investigating NCHSAA for 22 months, including two meetings of the Joint Legislative Committee on Governmental Operations Subcommittee on Interscholastic Athletics earlier this year. These meetings included questioning of NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker on the Association’s total assets of more than $40 million and its service to its member schools. Click here for an article on the bill, Committee discussion, and the NCHSAA’s response. Click here for an official bill summary.
Parental Consent for Vaccines
Last week we reported on a potential conference committee report for SB 173: Free the Smiles Act, that would add a section requiring parental consent for children to receive vaccines granted emergency use authorization and not fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. That section has been added to HB 96: Allow Pharmacists to Admin. Injectable Drugs (primary sponsors: Representatives Wayne Sasser, R-Stanly; Mitchell Setzer, R-Catawba; Donna White, R-Johnston; Gale Adcock, D-Wake), which was approved by two Senate committees this week.
Nondiscrimination in Schools Bill
According to a news source, Senate Leader Phil Berger said that HB 324: Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools will be heard in the Senate Education/Higher Education Committee in the first week of August. As a reminder, many Republican legislators who oppose Critical Race Theory say that HB 324 would prevent indoctrination in schools, while some Democratic legislators say that it would lead to censorship and limited student engagement when learning about U.S. history. Click here for a previous Legislative Update that includes a summary of the bill and legislator discussion (under Senate Education/Higher Education Committee Meeting).
HB 244: Lincoln Co. Bd. of Ed./Partisan Election (primary sponsor: Representative Jason Saine, R-Lincoln) was approved by the Senate Rules Committee and will be scheduled for a Senate floor vote.
In the Teachers’ and State Employees’ Retirement System (TSERS) Association Roundtable meeting today, State Treasurer staff asked NCSBA to remind LEAs of their responsibility to report the hiring of certain retirees for their summer school programs to TSERS. Section 1.3 of HB 82: Summer Learning Choice for NC Families permits TSERS retirees to have only one month separation of service, rather than six months, if employed in a “school extension learning recovery and enrichment program”. However, LEAs must certify to TSERS that a beneficiary is employed in this capacity by the local board of education. If TSERS is not notified and they find a retiree working before the six-month separation of service period ends, that retiree could have their retirement benefits suspended. Although this has not happened yet, State Treasurer staff wanted to bring this to the attention of LEAs.
The Senate will not hold any voting sessions next week and the House will only hold voting sessions on Monday and Tuesday. This is due to a number of legislators attending the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council on July 28-30. This three-day absence of the House comes as we continue to wait for the release of its proposed budget, which House Speaker Tim Moore said we may not see until the second week of August.
Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Assistant Director of Governmental Relations
N.C. School Boards Association
Governmental Relations Research Specialist
N.C. School Boards Association