NC students head back to school

According to state law, motorists approaching a bus from any direction are required to stop when a school bus is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and the bus is stopped. 

Students make their way out of Needham B. Broughton High School in Raleigh after the first day of the new school year for Wake County schools, Monday, August 28, 2017. (Eamon Queeney / North State Journal)

RALEIGH — Nearly 2 million students and teachers head back to class this week as the first day of school bell official rang on Monday for schools across the state. More than 125 year-round schools started earlier this month.

In honor of a new school year, N.C. Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Mark Johnson issued a video for the first day, directed at teachers, that highlights the department’s work to increase communication and address concerns about too much standardized testing.

Since January the department eliminated some tests and created a new Testing Transparency Report.

“Starting this school year, for the first time, we will have transparency in testing so that you, parents and others will be able to go to a DPI resource that describes all the tests you give and whether that test is required by federal government, the state government or your even your own school,” said Johnson in the video. “Armed with this transparency, we will start the work of ridding our system of overtesting.”

Johnson also announced that he is sending a series of surveys to teachers via email to get feedback on proposed changes and concerns. The first one scheduled to go out assesses whether teachers would be willing to resume classes earlier in August.

“We hope to have participation because we will be able to use this to demonstrate to lawmakers what teachers want. Raleigh has no shortage of opinions,” said Johnson.

Gov. Roy Cooper spent Tuesday visiting kids who are still getting ready for school. He and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen visited Excel Christian Academy in Burlington, a church-sponsored child care center with a pre-K program.

This year 1,800 more kids will participate in the state’s pre-K program, aimed at helping at-risk 4-year-olds. This year, legislators appropriated $27.3 million to whittle down the state’s waiting list for the program. Cooper had called for $32.4 million.

“We are delighted to give the Excel Christian Academy the opportunity to help more children benefit from this wonderful program,” said Cohen, who accompanied Cooper on his visit Tuesday. “Every child needs a great start for lifelong health, education and well-being.”

Teachers return to class in 2017 after years of debate over teacher pay. According to data from the nonpartisan Fiscal Research Division at the North Carolina General Assembly, starting teacher pay is now $35,000 per year with the average teacher salary at $50,906 annually, with a scheduled increase to an average of $53,394 in 2018-2019.

The N.C. Highway Patrol is also ready for the new bus routes and kids on foot headed to class. Troopers statewide will monitor school bus routes and are putting extra emphasis on enforcing traffic safety laws.