The local schools moved to a new start date last summer, but has that ability now been taken away by the state?
The NC General Assembly passed House Bill 1043 and Senate Bill 704 on Saturday and provided $ 1.6 billion in COVID-19 relief funds.
While it was the money that got all the attention, the 51-page document from SB 704 contained a lot more, including an extensive section on schools.
The part that caught the attention of local school officials on Saturday was Section 5.11 (b), which discusses school calendars.
Each local school administration unit adopts a school calendar that includes:
on. An opening date for students on August 17th.
b. The closing date for students is June 11th.
c. No distance learning day is planned before August 24th.
Because home learning is currently such a problem, the law requires school districts to submit their distance learning plan to the State Board of Education no later than June 30, and that the State Board submit a copy of each of these plans to a joint legislature committee for Educational supervision until September 15th.
In fact, five distant days need to be included in the calendar year, regardless of whether schools are hit by the virus in the next school year.
Last year the children returned to school on August 7th, resulting in a shorter summer break than usual.
The reason for the early return was so schools could finish the first semester before the Christmas break instead of having to return in the New Year and then take mid-term or final exams.
This is a plan that has been in the works for Surry County Schools for over a year and a half.
At a meeting of the Surry County Board of Education, headquarters staff explained how planning was restricted by a state law that went into effect in July 2013 and a “start date of Monday closest to August 26th and at the earliest an end date No. later than the Friday closest to June 11th. “
For August 2016, this start date was August 29, which further reduced the number of days in the fall semester.
School officials told board members that they believed the county could circumvent these requirements by classifying itself as a year-round district.
“The schools really operate 12 months a year,” explained Dr. Travis Reeves, Headmaster, at that meeting in 2018.
Usually, according to Reeves, June is a busy month with summer school classes, summer reading camps, STEM camps, art camps, agricultural camps, and others. School buses run to pick up children for camps.
Then, in July, the high schools are still busy hosting youth sports camps like soccer, basketball, and volleyball.
The autumn sports teams start training at the beginning of August, although the school is not yet back in class.
Moving the school calendar has brought the school systems into line with college timetables, such as Surry Community College.
This is a big deal as Surry Early College is on the SCC campus and many high school students are taking courses through SCC.
Dr. Reeves told the school board at that first meeting that 38% of juniors and seniors are taking at least one college course.
One parent spoke out at the meeting, saying parents fear that failing the first semester before the end of the year could affect their children’s testing performance. The children have two weeks to forget some of what they have learned.
With the NC High School Athletic Association trying to complete most of the football season before the basketball season begins, teams begin playing in early August.
Schools rely on income from home soccer games to support many other non-income sports programs. If a home game takes place before school is back in session, participation suffers, as does goal income. It also means fewer fans cheering on the home team.
The district school board met on Monday evening by conference call.
Dr. Tracey Lewis, communications director, said the calendar issue on SB 704 was not up for discussion. The board heard a summary of what the House and Senate bill means for education.
This summary was emailed to headquarters by Katherine Joyce, executive director of the NC Association of School Administrators. Joyce graduated from Surry Central in 1984.
Joyce states the funding package includes $ 231.6 million for K-12 schools for the following purposes:
• $ 75 million for child nutrition;
• $ 70 million, summer learning;
• $ 56.5 million in distance learning (including equipment and support);
• $ 15 million worth of exceptional children;
• $ 10 million for student health;
• $ 4.5 million for cybersecurity;
• $ 600,000 for residential schools.
The new schedule has been seen as a success for Mount Airy City Schools, and officials are reluctant to give up on the idea easily.
The early college concept the state put in place a few years ago was great for getting kids into a college mindset, said Dr. Morrison.
Some of these students come from families where no one in the family has graduated after high school, and the kids graduate and go to Surry Community College or even four year college.
Moving to a schedule consistent with SCC made it more convenient for students in the city to take classes in Dobsonian, and this year the proportion of students taking college and career courses through SCC increased by 15%, the said Superintendent.
Overall, around 65% of the students in the junior and senior classes took part in at least one class this year.
So what can be done?
Joyce’s email lists the definitions of what would be a year-round school. Morrison said options A and B are not feasible, but C sounds feasible.
The district would need to “create a plan that breaks the school calendar year into five nine-week lessons and requires each student to attend four assigned and staggered sessions out of the five nine-week sessions to complete the student’s academic year,” he told Joyce.
Students could perhaps attend four quarters during the regular school year, and if there are still commitments in the fifth session, this could be done through distance learning.
It makes sense to create a plan for distance learning, said Morrison. Schools had to use it now and may need it in the fall. Some students have benefited from distance learning and some have not, she admitted.
In one case, there was a student who looked smart but missed school and homework time because she has a sick mother and younger siblings to look after, the superintendent pointed out. Distance learning enabled the student to do classwork at night after the boys went to bed and their grades rose.
There was tremendous momentum in traditional public schools during this pandemic, Morrison said. They have proven to be the center of the community with the aim of delivering meals to children in need and giving them access to WiFi at home.
She said she just wants the state to show confidence in the district that it will continue to make the best decisions for the children.
Not every district has the same needs; The schools on the coast don’t have the same needs as the mountains, she said. MACS should be able to create its own calendar.