Optimism growing for school calendar flexibility

BY ZACHARY HORNER, News + Record Staff
Posted 3/8/19

A new bill in the N.C. General Assembly could be representative of a new optimism over allowing school districts to have more control over their school calendars.

House Bill 163, filed Feb. 26, …

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Optimism growing for school calendar flexibility

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A new bill in the N.C. General Assembly could be representative of a new optimism over allowing school districts to have more control over their school calendars.

House Bill 163, filed Feb. 26, would give the school boards of Chatham, Harnett and Lee counties the ability to “align the calendar of schools...with the calendar of a community college serving the city or county in which the unit is located.”

If passed, the bill could allow Chatham County’s high schools to start classes at the same time as Central Carolina Community College, which also has campuses in Lee and Harnett counties, which education leaders have said would help dual enrollment students achieve greater success in the classroom.

Bills like this have been filed many times in the past, but according to state Rep. Robert Reives II (D-Chatham), one of the four main sponsors of HB163, there’s a difference in this one.

“The shift has been that there’s been a change with leadership about their position on it,” Reives said. “The rank and file throughout both sides have wanted this flex bill. This has been a non-issue for the majority of Republicans and a majority of Democrats.”

HB163 lists state Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett) as a main sponsor. Lewis is the chairman of the influential House Rules Committee, and Reives said his involvement was important. CCCC President T. Eston Marchant agreed.

“We applaud Mr. Lewis for his efforts,” Marchant said. “It will mean a great deal that he is a sponsor on that bill.”

Chatham County leaders have taken action in recent months to support calendar flexibility, with both the Chatham County Board of Education and Board of Commissioners passing resolutions supporting a change. In February, Chatham County Schools Superintendent Derrick Jordan said “this is the year” for calendar flexibility if it was going to happen due to difficulties districts experienced last fall due to Hurricane Florence.

“The ideal would be for the General Assembly to provide some relief,” Jordan said. “The calendar restrictions create some hurdles that have to be jumped every year.”

Commissioners Chairman Mike Dasher called the resolution “incredibly important” at the board’s February meeting, and Commissioner Karen Howard said she hoped “common sense will reign” on this topic.

Based on the groundswell of bills filed and support for those bills — several Democrats and Republicans are co-sponsors of HB163 — Reives feels like there’s a good shot this year for this change for the counties of CCCC.

“We’re really hopeful to get something through,” he said. “I’m very hopeful and optimistic that there’s a possibility by the end of the session. We’re at a point where we need to allow that. We’ve got a lot of responsible school systems that need that flexibility.”

Marchant, who has less than a month in his tenure at the college, said it’s important that all three of the college’s counties are unified in this way.

“We would like for all three districts and the community college, while not necessarily mirror, to agree on the broad outlines of a calendar,” he said. “That will really increase the ability of our high school students to take advantage of what we have. It allows us the ability to coordinate with them to ensure that (our) programs match up and provide the maximum potential.”


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