NC board votes for 5 more classroom days

December 2, 2011 8:14:45 PM PST
The North Carolina Board of Education made it official Thursday that public school students will be spending more days in class starting next year.

It decided not to delay compliance with a new state law expanding the current 180-day school year to 185 days.

About half the state's 115 school districts asked to postpone the longer school year, but the state education agency has yet to act on those requests.

North Carolina legislators approved the longer school year saying it will help students score better on standardized tests while preserving a state-mandated 10-week summer vacation.

School districts complain they'll have to pay for five extra days of school bus fuel, heat and electricity, and other costs despite state spending cuts.

"I understand that some of our larger school systems, it will be costing them anywhere from a quarter of a million to three quarters of a million dollars, and I've heard the million dollar figure being thrown around in Mecklenburg County," said School Board Chairman Dr. Bill Harrison.

But Harrison said he supports the longer school year.

"I fully endorse 185-day calendar. I think our students need to be in school more than they presently are," he offered.

State education officials say instead of granting waivers to let districts put off implementing the longer school year, they plan to go to the General Assembly to ask lawmakers what to do.

"The State Board of Education's decided that it would go back to the General Assembly to ask for some relief from certain laws that are in place, such as the calendar," explained State Superintendent Dr. June Atkinson.

The board will also ask the General Assembly to help figure out a way to pay for everything.

"The message to our local school districts is to proceed as planned with 185 days. It's much easier to plan for 185 days and then make adjustments than it is to plan for 180 days and have to make adjustments at another time," said Atkinson.

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