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School leaders urge NC to give ‘generously’ to help students and teachers hurt by Florence

North Carolinians are being challenged to give generously to help the students and educators in the state whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Florence.

A coalition of education and business leaders announced Tuesday the creation of Florence Aid to Students and Teachers of North Carolina (FAST NC), which will collect money to give to victims of the storm. Much of North Carolina was flooded by Florence, leaving schools damaged, school supplies destroyed and families of students and teachers without homes and possessions.

“Now is the time for North Carolinians all across our state to stand up, to care for our neighbor together and to help our students and teachers get back on track as a result of Hurricane Florence,” Eric Davis, chairman of the State Board of Education, said at a news conference Tuesday. “So I challenge us all.

“Let’s do the right thing. Let’s show our students and teachers just how much they mean to us by donating generously and helping our students get back to school.”

FAST NC will be able to take credit card donations on its website, www.ncpublicschools.org/fastnc. But people can also give by completing the donation form on the website and sending it along with a check to NC Education Fund, State Board of Education, 6336 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699.

No specific goal for donations was announced Tuesday, but leaders of the effort say that the needs are severe.

State Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson, who has been touring flood-damaged areas in Eastern North Carolina, said the damage to schools alone is at least $30 million and rising, not including the losses that families have felt.

“In Craven County, the schools will be ready to open in just a week but the entire community is a loss,” Johnson said. “Homes were flooded up to the rooftops. So that means not only do we have families, parents, students who have lost everything, we had teachers in those communities who have lost everything and they have no where to go right now.”

School district superintendents and charter schools will submit requests for aid to the steering committee of FAST NC, which will make recommendations to the state board on how to distribute the money through the NC Education Fund.

Former State Superintendent Mike Ward said he came up with the idea of the new effort last week and reached out to Johnson, former State Superintendent June Atkinson and others to work together in a bipartisan way to help students and teachers. He said he wants to avoid what happened to students in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, where a study showed that it had a long-term negative impact on achievement and behavior.

“First and foremost, we want to help the students and educators who are impacted by the storm,” Ward said. “That’s job No. 1. But we also want to send a message.

“We want to send a signal that these circumstances calls for leadership that transcends political barriers. leadership that reaches across divides, leadership that says first and foremost the interests of our kids and our educators is paramount.”

T. Keung Hui: 919-829-4534, @nckhui

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