Logistics of lawmakers' proposed summer school quickly changing

Posted February 18, 2021 5:16 p.m. EST

— Days after legislation was filed to require school districts across North Carolina to provide an extended summer school to help students who struggled with online classes during the coronavirus pandemic, details of the program have already changed.

House Bill 82 initially called for six weeks of full-time, in-person learning. But that has been reworked into 150 hours of instruction to align better with year-round calendars and other summer school plans districts have in the works.

Lawmakers expect other tweaks to the plan as educators react to it and as the bill progresses through the House and the Senate.

Gov. Roy Cooper said Thursday that it's too early for him to comment on specifics of the idea.

"If we can provide opportunities for them to catch up, for them to get additional instruction, then I think that's positive," Cooper said.

The state Department of Public Instruction said the proportion of students considered "at risk" academically has grown from 40 to 60 percent statewide during the pandemic.

House Speaker Tim Moore said the alarming number of students falling behind because they have had to learn at home for months instead of in a classroom is why he's backing the summer school bill.

Students wouldn't have to attend, but Moore, R-Cleveland, said many parents will likely want to send their children after they see their end-of-year assessments.

"A lot of children are not at grade level," he said. "Principals are going to be tasked with the difficult decision, does that child get promoted or does that child have to repeat that grade? This is the safety net."

The program would be targeted toward students struggling in one or more subjects, but other students would be allowed to attend if there’s room for them.

Rep. Jeffrey Elmore, R-Wilkes, who is a teacher, said districts would have some flexibility in how they design their programs, but they have to include sports, music or arts as well as reading, math and science.

"We have to motivate these kids to come in. They’re coming by choice," Elmore said.

Teachers wouldn't have to teach in the summer program if they don’t want to. Those who do would sign a separate contract with their district and could be eligible for higher pay.

Schools would have to abide by all pandemic safety guidelines in place during the summer and would have to provide transportation and meals for students.

Backers don't have a cost estimate for the program, but they said it would be paid for out of federal pandemic relief money the state doled out to school districts last week.

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