School reopening bill heads to governor

Published: Feb. 25, 2021 at 8:59 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Senate has approved legislation requiring in-person instruction before the start of the next school year. Following a similar vote Wednesday in the House of Delegates, the bill is now headed to the desk of Governor Ralph Northam.

“Our children needed to be in school last fall,” said Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico). “We have spent an enormous amount of time discussing the science and the evidence that supports that.”

The legislation that Dunnavant introduced is now a product of bipartisan compromise.

It calls for in-person instruction five days a week, but includes protections for teachers, and families.

“This bill goes on to make sure our teachers are protected by ensuring that they have the opportunity to get the vaccination, that they have the ability to teach from home if they have a medical reason or exception,” Dunnavant explained on the floor of the Senate. “It allows families to opt out of in-person education and choose virtual education.”

The only flaw, Dunnavant said, is the fact it won’t take effect until July 1.

She said she hopes Governor Northam will send it back with an emergency clause that, if lawmakers agree, would implement the bill immediately.

“Because this is what open schools look like,” Dunnavant said. “And this is the kind of structure for open schools, that ensure that we can begin to evaluate our children for the learning loss and the social, emotional risk that they’ve had.”

The legislation passed in both chambers with strong majorities. But it does have critics, including the Virginia School Boards Association.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill, but it’s unclear if he will consider adding an emergency clause.

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