FILE - North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland

(The Center Square) – A new summer school option for students who have fallen behind because of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has cleared the North Carolina General Assembly and awaits Gov. Roy Cooper's approval.

House Bill 82, dubbed the Summer Learning Choice for NC Families, creates a voluntary six-week, in-person summer school program for North Carolina K-12 students.

“Parents are ready to see their children going back to school and [recovering] from the learning loss that has occurred during the pandemic,” said House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, who was the lead sponsor of the legislation. “After bipartisan work from the House and Senate and input from educators around the state, this legislation will give North Carolina families an option for their children to grow and learn during this summer.”

HB 82 unanimously cleared both chambers of the General Assembly on Thursday. The House approved the Senate’s changes to the bill, 119-0, after it passed in the Senate, 48-0. The bill also has received support from local superintendents and education advocacy groups.

A report released last month by the North Carolina State Board of Education showed more than half of North Carolina high school students failed their end-of-course tests in the fall and 75% of third-graders are not proficient in reading. The General Assembly also is considering legislation to increase literacy initiatives in the state.

Lawmakers have allocated $1.4 billion to public schools to help with learning loss and resume in-person instruction, among other things. HB 82 also ensures charter schools gain the state’s support in addressing the issue.

“This legislation is crucial for us to combat the learning deficit that has occurred due to the pandemic,” said Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, co-chair of the House K-12 Education Committee. “As always, I will continue to work on legislation that will help our children during this time so that they can reach their American Dream.”

Local school boards must employ teachers and other school staff for the summer program under temporary contracts. Educators who retired between December and March 1 are not eligible to work the program because of retirement compensation laws.

Cooper has nine days to sign or veto the bill before it automatically becomes law.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for four years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.