North Carolina schools to begin in Mid-August

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in North Carolina schools closing and students moving to online learning for the rest of the school year. But what about the upcoming school year?

When Gov. Roy Cooper signed the General Assembly’s $1.57 billion COVID-19 relief package into law on Monday morning, it also included changes to the school calendar and millions in funding. The legislation designated how federal coronavirus response money is spent.

The next school year will start on Aug. 17, a week earlier than normal, and end no later than June 11, 2021.

All schools will finish out this school year through remote instruction. For the next school year, no remote instruction day can be scheduled prior to Aug. 24 unless the school operates on a year-round or modified calendar schedule, according to the bill.

“We know that the sudden shift to remote learning has been challenging for some students and families,” Cooper told reporters at a news conference. “Today’s bills provide for feeding school children, summer learning programs to help them catch up and funding to purchase computers for students who need them. It modifies end of grade testing requirements and adjusts the school calendar for next year,” he said.

The legislation also requires all schools to submit remote instruction plans to the state Board of Education by July 20.

The governor’s office highlighted education spending in the COVID-19 legislation:

▪ $75 million for school nutrition programs

▪ $70 million for summer learning programs

▪ $30 million for local school districts to buy computers for students who need them

The legislation also waived end of grade testing for students and other assessments. Principals will determine if third graders can move on to fourth grade instead of basing it on EOG testing results. The state will not identify any new low-performing schools based on data from the 2019-20 school year.

When the General Assembly returns in a few weeks to take up a second COVID-19 relief package, they will look at the state’s current mandate to reduce class size in kindergarten through third grade. Schools must continue to change staffing and buildings to reduce class sizes. The House’s original bill including waiving that requirement for the coming year as well as a provision dealing with salaries of school principals.

Rep. David Lewis said Saturday that during negotiations, lawmakers agreed they could take up those issues when they come back later this month. The House’s COVID-19 committees are expected to meet over the next two weeks.