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Governor signs school opening bill without emergency clause

Published: Apr. 1, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - Governor Ralph Northam has signed legislation that will move more schools toward in-person instruction, but it won’t take effect immediately.

Senate Bill 1303 was a bipartisan effort to get students back in the classroom. It calls for in-person instruction five days a week, and includes protections for teachers and families.

It doesn’t include the emergency clause that some lawmakers had encouraged the Governor to add.

“It needs to go into effect now. Enough is enough,” said Delegate John Avoli (R-Staunton). “Follow the CDC guidelines with three-foot distancing, and let’s get our kids back to school.”

Despite the lack of an emergency clause, Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico Co.) says she believes it is already making a difference.

“The conversation now changes, I hope, from ‘do we have to open’ and ‘oh we can’t open’ to ‘oh gosh we do have to open and how are we going to do that,” Dunnavant told WDBJ7 Thursday afternoon. “And ‘how’ is what we should have been talking about since last June.”

A spokesperson for Governor Northam defended the decision to sign the bill, and forgo an amendment to add an emergency clause.

“Governor Northam has been a fierce advocate for getting students back in the classroom, and in-person learning will be happening in all of Virginia’s 132 school divisions this month,” said Alena Yarmosky. “The Governor has been traveling to meet with educators, school leaders, and students, and he has seen school personnel working hard to ensure all students have access to in-person learning options, while maintaining remote options for students who need them. An emergency clause could serve to impede this good work, and may limit capacity to provide remote options to those who need them.”

The new law will take effect July 1.

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