'Devastating:' 220 NC teachers suddenly laid off from virtual classroom program

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Dozens of North Carolina teachers are getting a very painful lesson in state bureaucracy this week.

More than 200 teachers, teaching some of the subjects that state public schools have the toughest time finding instructors for, were preparing for fall semester to begin in a few weeks when they were shocked to find an email in their inbox this week telling them they don't have a job this semester.

"To lose North Carolina Virtual Public School (NCVPS) would be devastating for me," said Melissa Barnhart, one of the 220 educators of the NCVPS.

If your child's local school doesn't have enough students to justify a calculus class, NCVPS can teach your child virtually. Or if your district doesn't have enough resources for exceptional children, that's where Barnhart and her virtual colleagues come in.

For this stay-at-home mom of four children, the job's been a lifesaver.
"I want to help bring in money for our family, but I don't want to just leave the kids and so I stay home and luckily this opportunity came with NCVPS," she said.

So Barnhart and the others were shocked when the email popped into their inbox Tuesday -- alerting them they're required to take a 31-day break in service in order to satisfy state laws for temporary employees. Any teacher who worked through the summer semester would no longer be permitted to work in the fall semester.

"For me, it means almost $30,000 that I won't be able to get back. And that's just for the fall," Barnhart said. "I mean, I don't legitimately know what we're going to do about that amount of money just not coming in."
State Superintendent Mark Johnson is telling affected teachers that the controversial decision came from NCVPS with legal advice from the State Board of Education and the Office of State Human Resources.

"While I believe those involved were attempting to find a good solution, I was unfortunately not consulted on this issue," Johnson wrote in a letter to educators. "I am now aware and have already reached out to the governor's office and the General Assembly to find a better solution."
Barnhart said she's not sure what the solution is but hopes state leaders find one quickly.

"This might have been a mistake. This might have been a misunderstanding. I don't know what the problem is and I kind of don't care what the problem is. I just want them to solve it," she said.

Like dozens of others, Barnhart's contract for the fall semester was set to start Thursday (August 1). But those teachers are in employment limbo right now.

Our news partners at the News & Observer spoke to the Office of State Human Resources on Thursday, which said it was not its decision nor that of Temporary Solutions, a division of OSHR which processes payroll for NCVPS, to lay off these teachers -- saying Temp Solutions gave NCVPS alternatives back in May that could have been used to avoid these teachers being classified as temporary employees.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to further clarify the teachers are employed by NCVPS not Temporary Solutions.
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