Politics & Government

After Florence, NC leaders want to limit school makeup days

Hurricane Florence destroys high school in Jacksonville, NC

White Oak High School in Jacksonville, North Carolina, was battered by rain and wind from Hurricane Florence.
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White Oak High School in Jacksonville, North Carolina, was battered by rain and wind from Hurricane Florence.

Some North Carolina school districts remain closed after Hurricane Florence, leaving the prospect of makeup days looming.

State law requires schools to be in session for 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction per year. But some state leaders want to ease statewide attendance requirements for counties affected by the storm.

N.C. Schools Superintendent Mark Johnson and House Speaker Tim Moore this week said they hope to exempt school districts hit hard by Hurricane Florence from the state’s calendar requirements. That would mean schools likely to be closed for weeks wouldn’t have to schedule as many makeup days, which sometimes extend the school year into mid-June and on Saturdays.

“We don’t need to have kids who may be missing schools for weeks at a time, trying to make that up for weeks into the summer,” Moore said Tuesday in a news release. “I think that’s unreasonable. I think we need to make some accommodation on that, on the school calendar. ... So many families’ lives are being uprooted right now and anything we can do to make their lives easier, we need to do.”

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The actions Moore would like to take to help Florence victims would likely require a special legislative session, Moore’s spokesman, Joseph Kyzer, said in an email. It’s unclear how soon that might occur. N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger declined to comment on Moore’s push.

“We are aware of (the makeup day) issue as well as all of the other issues currently facing the citizens of our state and will take appropriate action as necessary,” Bill D’Elia, a Berger spokesman, said in an email.

On Wednesday, Johnson’s office said it agrees with Moore’s position.

Johnson “has been talking to local superintendents about calendar waivers for affected districts. It is too early to know the scope of any waivers, so the superintendent will stay in contact with local districts and legislative leaders as we move from the response to the recovery phase for Florence,” Drew Elliot, a spokesman for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, said in an email.

A similar exemption was part of the 2016 disaster relief bill approved after Hurricane Matthew. That provision gave the exemption to any school district closed for more than two days during Hurricane Matthew, and it meant that only two days during the closure had to be made up.

Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Duplin, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender and Wayne county schools are closed this week. Bladen, Jones, Robeson and Sampson county schools are closed “until further notice.”

Donna Brown, 59, of Jacksonville, fled with her family to an emergency shelter at Knightdale High School to escape Hurricane Florence. Brown says she was too concerned about the storm to stay on the coast.

Specht: 919-829-4870 @AndySpecht
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