A new bill passed through the North Carolina legislature increases the minimum number of required instructional days for students from 180 to 185, or from 1,000 hours to 1,025 hours. At the same time, no additional funds have been allocated by the state to pay for bussing or other expenses which will be incurred by the extra student days.
On Monday, after considering its options, the school board voted to apply for a waiver from the State Board of Education which would allow Macon County schools to remain on a 180-day calendar. The additional classroom days are to replace teacher workdays that were protected in years past, but which the new law unprotects.
According to Superintendent Dan Brigman, the law did not, as some believed, undo the state mandated start and ending dates of Aug. 25 and June 10. “There has been some speculation out there that we are going to be adding five days to the beginning or the end [of the calendar],” said Brigman. “That's not true.”
However, Brigman explained that the legislation, which goes into effect on July 1, provides for a waiver for the five instructional days to be used as teacher workdays if the State Board finds that it will enhance student achievement or performance to do so. Applications for a waiver must be submitted by the district by July 5.
Pat Davis, director of testing and accountability, presented two options available to the board along with sample calendars. “In the first option, teachers will have five more days with students added on. In the second option, you can choose to keep the school year at 180 days and use the work days for staff development, so teachers will not have instructional days added on,” she said.
Brigman noted that another strategy in some districts will be to request a waiver to extend the length of the instructional day in order to meet the 1025 hour requirement.
According to exceptional children director, Carol Waldroop, replacing the protected teacher workdays with staff development days will be a great help to the county which must do training for new state and federal mandated core curriculum standards. “Otherwise, it's going to take a ton of money,” said Waldroop. “This way you would be able to do it with the teacher being paid, and we're doing what we're required to do.”
Davis added that since the state no longer provides funds for staff development, eliminating the protected workdays is a way for the county to make-up for some of the lost funds.
Principal Mark Sutton of Mountain View Intermediate School, who also attended the board meeting, noted that there were several other key programs and systems that teachers at his school needed training in, including the new Data Warehouse program and RTI training. Sutton remarked that designating staff development days would be a benefit. “There’s so much to do with no time to do it in,” he said.
After school board member Jim Breedlove expressed concerns about setting a schedule of professional development days before consulting teachers in the district, Davis assured him that the previously set workdays, which are no longer protected, would remain flexible and staff development could be scheduled around them at a later date.
The board voted unanimously to apply for the waiver.