Local schools adopted a new start date last summer, but has that capability now been phased out by the state?
The North Carolina General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1043 and Senate Bill 704 on Saturday, providing $ 1.6 billion in COVID-19 relief funding.
While it was the money that attracted all the attention, there was much more to the 51-page SB 704 document, including a long section regarding schools.
The part that caught the attention of local school officials on Saturday was section 5.11 (b), which deals with school calendars.
Each local school administrative unit adopts a school calendar which includes the following elements:
a. An opening date for students of August 17.
b. A closing date for students no later than June 11.
vs. No remote training day will be scheduled before August 24th.
With home learning being such a concern right now, the law requires that school districts submit their distance education plan to the State Board of Education no later than June 30, and that the Board of State submits a copy of each of these plans to a joint legislative committee. Education Supervisory Committee by September 15.
In fact, five distant days must be included in the calendar year, whether or not schools are affected by the virus next school year.
Last year, the children returned to school on August 7, which shortened the summer vacation.
The reason for the early return was to allow schools to finish the first semester before the Christmas break rather than having to come back in the new year and then take mid-term tests or final exams.
This is a plan that had been in the works for over a year and a half for schools in Surry County.
At a Surry County School Board meeting, central office staff explained how programming was restricted by a state law that came into effect in July 2013 requiring an “earliest start date of Monday. closest to August 26 and an end date no later than the Friday closest to June 11.
For August 2016, that start date was August 29, which further reduced the number of days in the fall semester.
School officials told council members they believed the county could get around those requirements by classifying itself as a year-round district.
“Schools are really used 12 months a year,” school principal Dr Travis Reeves explained at this 2018 meeting.
Typically, after regular classes are over, Reeves explained, June is a busy month with summer classes, summer reading camps, STEM camps, art camp, agriculture camp. and others. School buses run to pick up children from camps.
Then, in July, high schools remain busy organizing youth sports camps like football, basketball and volleyball.
At the beginning of August, the fall sports teams start training, although school has not yet started.
The shift in the school calendar has brought school systems in line with the timetables of colleges, such as Surry Community College.
This is a big deal since Surry Early College is held on the CSC campus along with many upper class students who take classes through CSC.
Dr Reeves told the school board at that first meeting that 38% of juniors and seniors take at least one college course.
A parent spoke at the meeting to say parents are concerned that not completing the first semester before the end of the year could hurt their children’s test performance. There are two weeks for the children to forget some of what they have learned.
Additionally, as the NC High School Athletic Association tries to complete most of the football season before the basketball season begins, teams start playing in early August.
Schools depend on income from home football matches to support many other non-income-generating sports programs. If a home game takes place before school resumes, attendance suffers, as do gate receipts. It also means fewer fans to cheer on the home team.
The county school board met by conference call Monday evening.
Dr Tracey Lewis, director of communications, said the timing issue in SB 704 had not been discussed. The council heard a summary of what the House bill and Senate bill mean for education.
This summary was emailed to the central office of Katherine Joyce, Executive Director of the NC School Administrators Association. Joyce is also a 1984 graduate of Surry Central.
Joyce says the funding includes $ 231.6 million for K-12 schools for these purposes:
• $ 75 million, infant nutrition;
• $ 70 million, summer apprenticeship;
• $ 56.5 million, distance learning (including devices and support);
• $ 15 million, exceptional children;
• $ 10 million, student health;
• $ 4.5 million, cybersecurity;
• $ 600,000, residential schools.
The new schedule has been seen as a success for schools in the town of Mount Airy, and officials don’t want to give up on the idea too easily.
The concept of a university that the state put in place a few years ago has been great in getting kids into an academic mindset, Dr Morrison said.
Some of these students come from homes where no one in the family has ever graduated after high school, she noted, and the children graduate and continue their education at Surry Community College or even a university in four years.
The shift to a CSC-aligned schedule has made it more convenient for students in city schools to take classes in Dobson, and this year the number of students taking college and vocational courses through CSC has increased by 15 %, said the superintendent.
In fact, overall for the junior and senior classes, around 65% of students have taken at least one course this year.
So what can we do?
Joyce’s email outlines definitions to consider a year-round school. Morrison said options A and B are not feasible, but C seems doable.
The district should create “a plan dividing the school year into five nine-week sessions and requiring each student to attend four assigned sessions spread over the five nine-week sessions to complete the student’s teaching year.” , Joyce said.
Students could perhaps attend four semesters in the regular school year, and if there were any lingering obligations in the fifth semester, it could be done through distance learning.
Creating a distance learning plan makes sense, Morrison said. Schools must have used it now and may need it again this fall. Some students have thrived on distance learning and others have not, she admitted.
In one case, there was a student who looked brilliant but was running out of time for school and homework because she had a sick mother and younger siblings to care for, the superintendent said. . With distance learning, the student could do homework in the evening after the kids went to bed, and his grades skyrocketed.
During this pandemic, there has been a huge boost with traditional public schools, Morrison said. They have proven to be a hub of the community with efforts like distributing meals to children in need and trying to give them access to home Wi-Fi.
She said she just wanted the state to show confidence in the district that it will continue to make the best decisions for the children.
Not all neighborhoods have the same needs; schools on the coast don’t have the same needs as the mountains, she says. MACS should be able to create its own calendar.