WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – School districts across the state are working to cement summer learning plans ahead of this month’s deadline, mandated by a new state law.
NC House Bill 82 was signed by the Governor on April 9, 2021 and gives school districts uniform guidelines around which to mold summer learning recovery programs. The goal is to give children in grades K-12 equitable access to in-person instruction to help students who have fallen behind during the pandemic. The law also offers additional incentives to teachers for their participation.
“It’s going to make a huge difference for our children,” said New Hanover County Schools deputy superintendent Dr. Lachawn Smith. “We anticipated the need for extended learning and so we’ve been planning how do we afford our children high-quality learning opportunities during the summer. What the bill has done for us is it has provided us greater structure. We were very excited to see the additional incentives for our staff; we were very excited to see the emphasis on enrichment as well.”
The programs must contain at least 150 hours, or 30 days of instruction, as well as meal service, a physical activity period, transportation and enrichment opportunities like music, arts, or sports.
Each district will come up with a way to identify and prioritize students most at risk for learning loss. Other students not identified as “at risk” may also participate if the district has space available, under the law.
Participation in the program is voluntary, and parents will make the final decision as to whether or not their child attends. However, Kindergartners who participate in the opportunity will not be held back, and principals will reassess all other students’ promotion eligibility after completing the summer program.
“This isn’t just a COVID thing,” said Pender County Schools spokesman Alex Riley. “When you think about hurricanes that have come through over the last few years and the amount of time we’ve lost in school, related to those as well, there’s a lot of learning loss that’s out there. It’s almost immeasurable because we haven’t had the standardized tests of a ‘normal year’ for quite some time. so it’s hard to really put a number, or a value on what we’ve lost. This is a big opportunity for us and that’s why it’s important to get it right.”
Districts are finalizing important details now, but must have their plans submitted to the Department of Public Instruction no later than 30 days before the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
New Hanover County Schools is in the process of solidifying dates and final details for its summer programs. Leaders expect to contact families who qualify in the next two weeks.
Pender County Schools has reviewed the information from the state and is working to implement the framework mentioned in the law. The district is actively surveying staff to gather details on who is available to help students who have fallen behind.