COVID-19 relief bills: What it means for school calendars

House Speaker Tim Moore speaks as Gov. Roy Cooper looks on during a briefing on North Carolina's coronavirus pandemic response Monday, May 4, 2020 at the NC Emergency Operations Center in Raleigh. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH — Inside the 70-page COVID-19 relief bill passed by the Senate and signed into law by Governor Roy Cooper are significant education policy fixes and changes, one of which includes temporary calendar adjustments.

According to Senate Bill 704, remote instruction can be used to satisfy the statutory instructional time requirement set by the state for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Additionally, attendance requirements and related enforcement measures have been waived from March 16 through the end of the current academic year.

The bill instructs public schools to develop Remote Instruction Plans (RIP) for the upcoming 2020-2021 school year. RIP’s need to include details on how remote learning will be delivered and what training will be offered for primary stakeholders such as teachers, students and parents.

School and district plans need to be submitted to the State Board of Education no later than July 20, 2020.  The State Board of Education will also need to report on the implementation of RIP’s to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee by Sept. 15, 2020.

Current state law requires a minimum of 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction that spans at least nine calendar months.

The calendar will look slightly different for the 2020-21 academic year. Public schools will be required to adopt a calendar that includes 190 days of instruction that is made up of both in-school and remote instruction.

Schools must have 185 days or 1025 hours of instruction that includes 5 remote instruction days as part of the schools’ RIP and an additional 5 instruction days that can only be satisfied by “individually separate and distinct full instruction days.”

In terms of start dates, schools must adopt a student calendar that has an opening date of Aug. 17, 2020, and a closing date for no later than June 11, 2021. Remote instruction days cannot be scheduled prior to August 24 but may be scheduled for use as teacher workdays.

These start and end dates in the bill do not apply to calendars for defined year-round or modified schools. It’s still unclear how those calendar types will align themselves.

Several districts in the state have year-round or are sometimes called “track” calendar schools. North State Journal reached out earlier this month to Wake County Schools about adjustments to its track calendar system.

“The effects on year-round calendar schools will depend, of course, on the health guidelines in late June and early July,” Tim Simmons, the Wake County Schools chief of communications told North State Journal.

“While Wake has the largest number of year-round calendar schools, there are others throughout the state. So yes, state leaders are aware. No decisions have been made yet at the state or local levels,” Simmons said.”

About A.P. Dillon 277 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_