Up & Coming Weekly

February 23, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 12 of 24

12 UCW FEBRUARY 24 - MARCH 2, 2021 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM Senators introduce bill increasing attendance at school events by JOHN TRUMP Republican Senate lawmakers have introduced a bill that would change the 100-person capacity limit at outdoor high school sporting venues. Senate Bill 116 would change the 100-person limit to 40% of an outdoor facility's capacity. Sens. Todd Johnson, R-Union; Vickie Sawyer, R- Iredell; and Danny Britt, R-Robeson; introduced the measure. Under Gov. Roy Cooper's current executive orders, no more than 100 fans may watch high school athletes compete at large outdoor venues, such as football fields. As a result of the restric- tion, close family of high school athletes can't watch the students compete, a news release says. Outdoor facilities like football fields and stands are often large enough to accommodate more people and still allow for ample social distancing. For example, Johnson pointed to Cuthbertson High School in Union County. Its football stands can hold 2,976 people, yet Cooper's restriction only allows for 100 people, or 3% capacity, the release says. e bill would change the 100-person limit to 40% of an outdoor facility's capacity. "Many parents have reached out to my office with the legitimate complaint that they can't watch their children compete in outdoor sports even though many facilities can hold much more than 100 people and still abide by social distanc- ing guidelines," Johnson said. "e current 100-person limit is unreasonable and ignores the reality that many outdoor high school sports facilities are very large and can ac- commodate many more socially distanced fans." Legislators on ursday, Feb. 18, also sent Cooper a letter asking that he amend his latest executive order to accomplish the same goal as S.B. 116. Amending the executive order would be a much quicker way to resolve the problem, but legislators will advance their bill if necessary, the release says. Cooper said in a news conference ursday that state health officials are looking at the issue, and he plans to issue a new executive order next week. It's unclear what the new order will address. Cooper also addressed Senate Bill 37, which would reopen schools to in-person learning from students in kindergarten through 12th grade. e General Assembly passed the bill Wednesday. Cooper, though, says he has concerns about the measure. He asked that social-distancing guidelines be more strict, and that any move ensures local emergency departments won't be negatively af- fected by students returning to class. Cooper has 10 days to sign, veto, or do nothing with school reopening bill, Republican lawmak- ers say in a release. Sen. Deanna Ballard, R-Watauga, who co-chairs the Senate Education Committee, said, "Parents and children have waited long enough for some level of certainty in their public education. I hope that Governor Cooper chooses not to drag this out for another week and a half. is is a two-page bill that's been in the public for weeks," her state- ment says. "If a veto is coming, then do it now so the leg- islature can vote to override. If the Governor in- tends to let it become law, then he should sign it instead of taking the politically expedient option of dragging this out to the end of the month just so he can tell the far-left NCAE he didn't attach his signature to it." Republican lawmakers introduced a bill that would change the 100-person capacity limit at outdoor high school sporting venues. Lawmakers look to implement summer school for at-risk students by JOHNNY KAMPIS As state lawmakers try to sort out when students can go back to school full time, members of the House are sponsoring a bill that would offer a vol- untary summer school program for North Carolina students. House Republicans held a news conference Feb. 16 to discuss their bill, which allows local school districts to develop their own plans but holds certain requirements — students must be offered instruction at least five hours a day for five days a week over six weeks this summer, and lunch and physical activity must be incorporated into the school day. Included in the news conference were House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland; Rep. John Tor- bett, R-Gaston; Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes; and Rep. Jeff Zenger, R-Forsyth. e legislation, Summer Learning Choice for N.C. Families, requires minimum standards for grade-level course offerings. Students in fourth through eighth grades, for example, must receive instruction in math, reading and science, as well as at least one enrichment activity such as music or arts. e school proposal has its critics, including policy experts with the John Locke Foundation. "e House summer school legislation is a start; however, there are problems," said Bob Luebke, senior fellow at Locke's Center for Effective Educa- tion. "Learning loss estimates in mathematics for minority kids are in the 12- to 16-month range. It's a stretch to think that the deficit will be made up in six weeks in summer. "e larger problem," Luebke said, "is that learning loss varies significantly by income, race and geography. Such realities don't fit well into a broad-based summer school solution." He says Education Savings Accounts — or ESAs — are a better solution. "ESAs provide parents with the ability to access the individualized services their child needs," Lu- ebke said. "Parents can use funds from the account to pay for educational expenses and ensure their child is receiving the best education possible." Some school districts in the state remain closed for in-person instruction after Gov. Roy Cooper ordered them shuttered in March during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Moore said some students are falling behind, since many have had to learn remotely for nearly a year. He pointed out that some concepts are harder to grasp through vir- tual learning rather than in-classroom instruction. Moore also emphasized that while some parents can afford tutoring, "many of our more at-risk chil- dren can't afford that option." at's one reason the program prioritizes stu- dents that local districts identify as being at risk of most falling behind, although other students can attend as long as space is available. "We want to give these kids the ability to get caught up," Moore said. Elmore, who is also a teacher, said he knows students who are lost in the current educational system, falling behind due to remote learning. "Learning loss is a critical issue and I'm not say- ing this is a magic bullet," but it's an important step, he said. Torbett said he hopes the bill can quickly move through the Legislature. "e faster we get this passed, the faster we can get this [program] rolling," he said. is legislation comes as the House and Senate finalize Senate Bill 37, which would require school districts to reopen for some in-person learning. As Carolina Journal reported, the two chambers were required reach a compromise on a bill to send to Cooper. A House version of the bill added lan- guage that could require school districts to make reasonable work accommodations for teachers more at-risk for COVID or who take care of chil- dren more susceptible to the virus. e Senate approved the final deal, 31-16, on Feb. 16. ree Democratic senators voted with every Republican in favor of the bill. Moore suggested during the summer school legislation press conference that a final House vote on S.B. 37 could be taken on Feb. 17. JOHN TRUMP, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. JOHNNY KAMPIS, Carolina Journal News Service. COMMENTS? editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. NEWS

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