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Legislator: Virus Closing Could Lead To More Class Time This Summer


Even if North Carolina's schools can reopen in mid-May, families and school employees may see their summer plans disrupted by the aftermath of the coronavirus pandemic, a key legislator said Wednesday.

There’s talk of revising the state’s calendar law and extending the school year two weeks, through the end of June, says state Rep. Craig Horn, who co-chairs a House working group on education and COVID-19.

Horn, a Union County Republican, said extending this school year could disrupt teachers’ summer jobs and families’ plans.

“Is that really smart?” he asked. “Or would the smarter thing be to begin school earlier next year, determine where the kids are at that point and then ensure that they’re on a track that’s going to get them to where they need to be by the end of that next year?”

Horn says there’s currently no consensus and no proposal to act on. He spoke with House and Senate education leaders and members of the state Board of Education Wednesday afternoon to prepare for a House working group meeting Thursday afternoon.

“We don’t have a proposal. We’re trying to come up with what makes reasonable sense,” Horn said.

Horn had one grim prediction for seniors and their families: “The odds of us having a face-to-face graduation are pretty slim.”

Horn co-chairs the House COVID-19 education group, along with John Fraley, an Iredell County Republican, and Ashton Clemmons, a Guilford County Democrat.

Horn said in addition to calendar questions, two other urgent issues loom: How to make sure school employees continue to be paid, and how to eliminate the normal year-end testing requirements.

“The testing issue has pretty well been put to bed,” he said. The federal government has agreed to waive its requirements and the state will likely do the same, Horn said. But he said that raises new questions about school letter grades and teacher effectiveness ratings.

“It begets questions about bonus payments and job security,” he added.

The General Assembly is scheduled to convene on April 28. Horn said at this point there’s no need to return early because there are no bills ready to vote on. But he thinks people are eager to see more of the talks that have mostly been behind the scenes.

“They want to know what’s being considered. They want to know that things are being considered,” he said.

Thursday’s education group meeting is at 1 p.m. and will be done electronically. The public can listen in through the General Assembly website.

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Ann Doss Helms has covered education in the Charlotte area for over 20 years, first at The Charlotte Observer and then at WFAE. Reach her at ahelms@wfae.org or 704-926-3859.