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An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

NC Bill Would Allow Early Start Of School And 'Jump Start' For At-Risk Kids


A bill approved by a North Carolina House panel Thursday would allow school districts to open schools a week early next year to offset losses from the coronavirus closing this year.

It also says the state plans to pay for an additional two weeks of  "supplemental jump start instruction" for at-risk students. That means some students could go back in early August and others as early as Aug. 17.

State law mandates that school districts wait until late August to start the school year, although some districts used a loophole to start earlier in 2019. State officials said the normal 2020 start date would be Aug. 24 -- but Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools approved an Aug. 31 start to avoid the traffic and disruptions of the Republican National Convention in Charlotte.

The calendar proposal is part of a long list of adjustments proposed for dealing with the COVID-19 crisis that was approved by the House working group on education. For instance, the bill calls for temporarily setting aside all the legal requirements for using state exam scores, such as designating low-performing schools and requiring a passing reading score for promotion to fourth grade.

Most of those came up last week, but at that time the group couldn't agree on a calendar plan. 

Rep. John Fraley, a co-chair of the house panel, called the current calendar bill and the jump start plan "still sort of works in progress."

"We've been working back and forth with the Senate on both of these things," he said. "I think that we are reasonably close in theory" and all details should be worked out over the next few days.

The proposed COVID-19 bill also allows remote learning time to count toward minimum class time requirements. 

The bill will now go to the House and Senate when the General Assembly convenes April 28.

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.