DPI Issues Guidance On School Calendar, Pay Provisions Of Senate Bill 2’s Hurricane Relief Package For Schools
Katherine Joyce | NCASA Executive Director
School leaders statewide, particularly in areas hit hard by Hurricane Florence, were pleased to see the General Assembly quickly pass Senate Bill 2 on October 2 to provide relief from certain school calendar constraints, and clarify that employees would not lose pay for missed work. However, numerous questions have emerged about the parameters each school district must use to implement the new law as intended. The North Carolina Association of School Administrators (NCASA) reached out to State Superintendent Mark Johnson to seek guidance from the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in order to help district leaders answer questions. DPI’s Division of School Business released that guidance earlier today.
The guidance confirms that the new law applies to all school districts that missed any instructional days due to Hurricane Florence and that all employees, including salaried and hourly personnel, in those districts must be paid as if they had worked. NCASA had initially interpreted the law’s pay provision as excluding districts that would comply with ongoing minimal instructional requirements of 185 days or 1,025 hours, but has since revised that interpretation to agree with DPI’s guidance, which aligns with information NCASA has since received from legislative staff.
The key for districts in sorting out employee pay for missed instructional time hinges on the local decision regarding how instructional days missed due to Florence are ultimately classified. See the relevant DPI guidance item numbers below, which state:
4. If a LEA missed instructional days but still meets the statutory minimum for instructional time (1,025 hours or 185 days) without making up any days, is that LEA required to pay employees for the missed instructional days?
Yes. Employees are required to be paid for all missed instructional days that were scheduled.
5. If a LEA missed instructional days and then later decides to make up some or all of the days, are the employees paid for both the missed days and the make-up days?
No. Employees are not eligible to be paid twice. The following may be common scenarios:
If the LEA elects not to schedule make-up days for lost days, then employees are to be paid for the days that the LEA deemed “completed”;
If the LEA elects to schedule a make-up day, then employees are to be paid for the days the LEA “deemed completed” and the make-up days.
Illustration: An affected LEA missed five instructional days because of Hurricane Florence and chose to waive two days and schedule three make-up days. Under this circumstance:
1. The LEA pays the employees for the two waived days; and
2. The LEA pays the employees for the three make-up days as actual workdays.
16. If waiving an instructional day is allowable, how do LEAs handle pay for personnel who reported in for an optional workday?
Employees are only compensated for missed scheduled instructional days. If the day was originally an instructional day and then was changed to an optional workday, the employee is eligible for compensation. If the employee took annual leave on the optional workday, the LEA should credit the annual leave back and compensate the employee.
17. Can comp days be provided to employees who worked on a waived instructional day since employees who did not report to work are required to be paid as if they had worked?
This is a local decision.
The DPI guidance also clarifies that districts have the authority to extend their traditional school calendar beyond the Friday closest to June 11, which is contemplated as the latest year-end date under the ongoing calendar law. See DPI guidance item #2, which states extending past that date is allowable to meet minimal instructional time requirements; however, “the school year shall not go past June 30, the end of the fiscal year.”
Additional questions about implementation of Senate Bill 2 should be directed to DPI or answered through discussions with the local school board attorney.
In addition to this emergency relief package approved by the General Assembly, DPI notified school districts this morning that they may want to pursue class size waivers that are also allowable under current law “in circumstances that arise from emergencies or Acts of God.” For Florence-related waivers, LEAs may use this form to request a waiver. The completed waiver request, which must be approved by the district’s school board, can be emailed to StudentAccounting@dpi.nc.gov.