NC lawmakers likely to waive testing requirements, teacher and school evaluations

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- Members of the House Select Committee on COVID-19 met for a second day on Thursday, and lawmakers on the education task force began to answer many questions surrounding public instruction in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

"Some very creative things are happening in this state," Rep. Craig Horn (D-Union County), the committee's co-chair, said. "I could not be more proud of the teachers, the principals and the superintendents."

From their couches to the kitchens, lawmakers dialed in for a virtual meeting much like many North Carolina residents.

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Earlier this week, House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland County) announced the formation of the House Select Committee on COVID-19, and divided it into four key working groups: Health Care, Economic Support, Education, and Continuity of State Operations.

"I think the biggest thing right now is trying to adapt what has been our traditional curriculum to make sure it takes care of the reality right now where kids can't be in school right now," Moore told ABC11.

Executive Order 120, signed by Governor Roy Cooper on March 23, cancelled in-person instruction until at least May 15. The General Assembly, thus, will have to legislate based on the existing statutes related to student testing, student attendance, student teachers, teacher evaluations and school report cards, among other outstanding issues.

Administrators from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education both presented recommendations to lawmakers Tuesday, including waiving test requirements.

Freebird McKinney, a former teacher himself, also informed lawmakers about one proposal to deal with the school calendar.

"What we're looking at is an extended education plan and possibly granting permission to be starting instructional days as early as the beginning of August," McKinney explained.

How and when traditional instruction returns, however, is a relatively long term issue; in the short term, lawmakers all agreed they must address challenges related to access to high speed internet.

"We can't just say, 'Geez we can't give it to you, tough luck,'" Rep. Horn lamented. "We've got to investigate every option for delivering an education to every student regardless of where they are."

Officially, the North Carolina General Assembly is in recess until April 28, but Gov. Roy Cooper has signaled he intends to call a special session to address a number of concerns related to the fallout from the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes, COVID-19.
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