Legislature forgives missed school days
By Amelia Harper
Thursday, January 5, 2017
As snow looms in the forecast, students and school officials in the Twin Counties can breathe a little easier knowing that the N.C. General Assembly has given them a break on missing some of school days lost due to Hurricane Matthew.
As part of the Disaster Recovery Act of 2016 approved in a special session in December, the General Assembly granted school systems and charter schools flexibility to accommodate “extraordinary circumstances” in regard to school days missed due to the effects of Hurricane Matthew in the eastern part of the state and the wildfires in the west.
The law essentially grants school systems the right to count any school days above two missed for recent disasters as having fulfilled instructional days. In Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools, which missed five days of school because of flooding, this means that the other three days of missed classes are, in essence, forgiven.
Most students in Edgecombe County Public Schools missed eight days during the flooding, while students at Princeville Elementary Schools missed 13. The law allows the school system to forgive all but two of those days.
Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools already has made up some of the flood days, fearing that missed days would especially affect high school students when it came to exam time.
"Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools made up two of the five days missed due to Hurricane Matthew on December 19 and 20,” said Robin May, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction.
However, May said the action of the legislature does allow the school system some wiggle room in dealing with future possible weather-related closings this year.
“The flexibility in the school calendar to accommodate extraordinary circumstances will allow our system to forgive additional days in the event of inclement weather over the next few months," May said,
Edgecombe County Public Schools also has already come up with a plan to deal with the missed school days. Superintendent John Farrelly told the school board at a recent meeting the schedule already allowed for at least five extra days in the calendar and those days would not need to be made up. In addition, students attended a full day of classes on days in October and December that had originally been slated as early release days and plan to extend classes on two other days in February and March.
Additional missing time at Princeville Elementary will be addressed by cutting time for breakfast and lunches in order to extend the school hours over the course of the rest of the school year.
However, Susan Hoke, communications coordinator for Edgecombe County Public Schools, said the new law does provide a cushion in case more school days need to be missed in the future. She also said the law helped to clarify the situation concerning teachers and other school employees by deeming them “to have been employed for the scheduled instructional days missed due to Hurricane Matthew in excess of those two days during the month of October 2016.”
“We thought the legislature may forgive the days for the students,” Hoke said, “but we were kind of surprised they counted the days for the teachers as well.”