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Commonwealth's Counties

‘Return to School’ bill modified in House subcommittee

On February 15, SB 1303 (Dunnavant) was heard and modified by the House Education Committee’s SOL and SOQ Subcommittee. As previously reported, the bill that passed the Senate would require that each local school division in the Commonwealth make virtual and in-person learning available to all students by choice of the student’s parent or guardian. The Chair of the Subcommittee offered an amendment in the nature of a substitute that requires local school boards to offer either fully in-person instruction or a combination of in-person and remote virtual instruction to enrolled students for the duration of the 2021-2022 school year. The bill also gives flexibility for local school divisions to offer virtual instruction at the request of a parent or if the school board determines that COVID-19 transmission in a school building is at a high level in accordance with Department of Health guidance documents, as long as this occurs during the Governor’s declaration of state of emergency. The Department of Health would be required to maintain a guidance document for the duration of the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency that contains metrics for determining whether transmission of COVID-19 in a school building is a low, medium, or high level. Additionally, the bill requires that prior to the start of the 2021-2022 school year, all teachers and school staff be offered access to a COVID-19 vaccine through their local health district.  Lastly, the provisions of the legislation will expire on August 1, 2022. The bill in the amended form has the support of Governor Ralph Northam and occurs in light of new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on school reopenings. The Subcommittee recommended reporting the substitute language unanimously, 8-0.

VACo Contact: Jeremy R. Bennett

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