Most N.C. school districts exempted from mandated five extra days

khui@newsobserver.comMarch 27, 2012 

Most North Carolina public school students will not have to spend an extra five days in classes this fall, marking the second straight year state educators have overridden the requirement passed by state legislators.

The Republican-led General Assembly changed state law last year to require public schools to have five more days of classes and 25 hours more of instruction. But State Schools Superintendent June Atkinson granted waivers last week from the extra days to 91 of the state’s 115 school districts, including Wake, Durham, Johnston and Orange counties and Chapel Hill-Carrboro.

The state Board of Education, which authorized the waivers, initially warned school districts not to expect them for this fall. Bill Harrison, chairman of the state board, said things changed in February during meetings in which individual school district leaders said the extra days would cost them money and take away needed training time for teachers.

“What we heard from them face to face was the challenges they would face from this,” Harrison said Monday.

State Sen. Jerry W. Tillman, a Randolph County Republican and co-chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has been one of the most vocal legislative proponents of additional class time. But he said Monday he understands the financial concerns raised about the extra days and is not upset about the waivers.

“If we saw they were trying to circumvent the law, we’d put a stop to it,” Tillman said. “We’re not at that point.”

The state budget adopted last June included a provision saying the school year should be 185 days instead of the standard 180 days. Students also were required to get at least 1,025 hours of instruction per school year instead of the old requirement of 1,000 hours.

Citing the short notice, the state board approved requests from most school districts to not add the days for this school year.

When it came to the 2012-13 school year, school districts said it could cost an additional $14 million statewide to hold five more days of classes. In Wake County, school officials estimate it would cost $280,000 per day to run school buses.

The official reason most school districts are getting the waiver is they say they’ll use the time to train teachers for the new curriculum being implemented for the 2012-13 school year. North Carolina, like most states, has agreed to follow the same curriculum model for English and math.

Tillman said the extra days and time will likely be revisited in May when the General Assembly reconvenes. He said one option would be to drop the extra days but require school districts to still add the 25 hours of additional class time.

“We want what’s best for students,” Tillman said. “We want to provide them more time to learn.”

Hui: 919-829-4534

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