NC Legislators Approve Hurricane Relief for School Calendar and Employees [UPDATED]
Elizabeth Yelverton | NCASA
The North Carolina General Assembly met Tuesday for its first special session regarding initial Hurricane Florence relief efforts. Legislators specifically addressed public school calendar flexibility and school employee compensation for areas impacted by Hurricane Florence. The Senate introduced Senate Bill 2, which was identical to House Bill 3: "School Calendar & Pay/Hurricane Florence." Senate Bill 2 passed both the House and Senate and was presented to the Governor to be signed into law. A separate recovery bill, House Bill 4/Senate Bill 3: "Hurricane Florence Emergency Response Act," also passed both the House and Senate and was presented to the Governor. Governor Cooper signed into law Senate Bill 2 and House Bill 4 on October 3.
For public school units under a federal major disaster declaration, the bill provides three options for school days missed due to the hurricane:
(i) Make up any number of the instructional days or equivalent hours missed;
(ii) Deem as completed any number of instructional days or equivalent hours missed up to a total of 20 days; or
(iii) Implement any combination of both of the above.
The bill provides additional options for public school units impacted by the hurricane but not located in a county designated under a federal major disaster declaration. If the public school unit’s scheduled calendar will already meet the state-mandated 185 instructional days, or 1,025 instructional hours, the bill notes no additional days or hours for that school are required to be made up. For all other school units impacted by the hurricane, the bill states schools must make up the first two days of missed instructional time, but may choose to make up any additional time missed, or alternatively, may deem that time as completed.
The bill also addresses employee compensation for districts that are eligible to waive missed instructional days and requires all public school employees who missed work on those waived days shall be paid as if they had worked. The bill also allocates $6.5 million in funding through the Department of Public Instruction to compensate child nutrition personnel who missed work on these waived instructional days as well.
In addition to providing legislative relief for school calendar restrictions and employee compensation, the bill also includes a reporting requirement for the State Superintendent regarding changes to school calendars and employee compensation as a result of this bill. The bill also provides leniency for students enrolled in an educator preparation program who could not graduate in December 2018 unless some of their class or clinical time is waived.
NCASA is receiving lots of questions about implementation of the school calendar relief and personnel pay provisions of this new law and is now creating a section-by-section legal analysis we will share with all members as soon as possible. NCASA also contacted State Superintendent Mark Johnson on October 3 to request that DPI offer official implementation guidance as well, and he quickly agreed that guidance is needed and will be compiled and circulated to all school districts. NCASA would like to note that our initial interpretation of the employee compensation section implied all school employees in all districts should be compensated as if they had worked on days missed due to the hurricane; however, we currently believe the pay provision applies only to districts defined in the new law as eligible to waive instructional days and then deemed one or more days as completed. We are seeking clarification on this issue from DPI and are hopeful it will be addressed in the Frequently Asked Questions document that the Division of School Business has indicated it will release next week.