185-day school year can wait

Districts can put it off a year

Staff WriterJune 25, 2011 

— North Carolina public schools will get a one-year reprieve from a new state requirement that students spend five additional days in class each year.

The state Board of Education agreed Friday on a way for school districts and charter schools to request one-year waivers from adding in the additional days for students. Districts must show, however, that they will use the time for teacher training.

Board members also warned they won't be as flexible about granting waivers in future years.

"This board has long said that we would like to see an increase in the number of days students are in school, but the reality is that we have calendars that have already been adopted," said Bill Harrison, chairman of the state board. "Logistically it's just tough this year."

The recently adopted state budget requires public schools to extend the school year by five more days, to 185 days of instruction a year. The number of required instruction hours would also increase 2.5 percent, to 1,025 hours annually.

Republican legislators have touted how the additional days and class time will be a boon for student learning.

But school leaders across the state complained that the changes were done without advance notice for the 2011-12 school year and that the additional days would lead to increased transportation costs. They also balked at how legislators eliminated teacher workdays during the school year as a way to add in the instructional days.

During a conference call meeting Friday, the state board said school districts requesting waivers would have to show how keeping the five days as workdays would be used as teacher training time to enhance student performance.

Friday's discussion also means that Wake County students will likely not have to spend an additional 10 minutes a day in class this fall.

The Wake school board had given Superintendent Tony Tata the authority to add 10 minutes to each school day for the 2011-12 school year as part of its waiver request. But school leaders said they'd only implement the longer day if the state board required it to get a waiver.

State board members said they'd begin approving individual waivers at the July 7 meeting. In addition, state school Superintendent June Atkinson also was given the authority to approve waivers.

Greg Thomas, a Wake schools spokesman, said Friday that the district is waiting for official state notification on how to seek waivers before deciding on how to move forward.

School administrators in Durham and Johnston counties and the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system have said they'll recommend seeking waivers.

keung.hui@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4534

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