Monthly Archives

March 2021

Coalition seeks clarification about charters’ reopening guidelines

By COVID-19, News

Confusion is growing around reopening guidelines for public charter schools. Here’s what we know right now.

Some background

Last week marked passage of bipartisan school reopening legislation (S 220/Session Law 2021-4). The law orders local school administrative units in North Carolina to open schools for in-person learning, directing grades K-5 to open under Plan A (minimal social distancing) and grades 6-12 under Plan A or Plan B (six feet of social distancing), or both. Charter schools were not included in S 220, based on their autonomy.

At a called meeting yesterday afternoon, the State Board of Education (SBE) approved amended guidance governing school reopening. Guidance seeks to clarify what districts and charters should do. For grades K-5, charters should open under Plan A, like districts. Plan A requirements for grades K-5 are outlined in the current version of the state’s public health toolkit. However, guidance for charters with students in grades 6-12 may seem less clear. Here’s what SBE’s amended guidelines state:

Charter schools specifically were not included in Session Law 2021-4; therefore, they are required by Session Law 2020-49 to follow the provisions outlined in the most current version of the DHHS StrongSchools NC Toolkit with regard to educating students in grades 6-12.

Based on the latest version of the toolkit, charters with students in grades 6-12 must operate under Plan B. In addition to incorporating Plan A guidelines, Plan B requires that schools ensure 6 feet of social distancing when people are stationary indoors; when teachers and staff congregate; and when people are stationary outdoors. Find additional guidelines and information on page 8 of the toolkit.

What the Coalition is doing

There are two ways to clear up any ambiguity or confusion, ensuring that charters can open grades 6-12 under Plan A, like district schools. The first option is to update the toolkit. The other option is to pass legislation. Presently, the Coalition is seeking a legislative fix for this issue, which DPI has said it will support. This is just a matter of cleaning up technicalities. We hope to have a legislative fix as soon as possible. We appreciate the partnership of the Superintendent, DPI, and legislative leaders in helping to make that happen.

As COVID continues, NC charters perform well

By COVID-19, News

During the pandemic, charter schools have continued to perform well. In fact, charter students’ academic performance seems to be more resilient than that of students at district schools. That’s a clear takeaway from new data presented to lawmakers today, highlighting worrisome numbers of at-risk students across North Carolina.

Currently, more than one in five students are at-risk of academic failure and are not making sufficient progress. But academic failure is much less common than that among North Carolina’s charter students.

The presentation to the NC Senate Education Policy Committee, coming from NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) officials, shared an early look at 2020-21 performance. Data, from both districts and charter schools, are self-reported.

Statewide, 23% of students in school districts are at-risk academically. At North Carolina charter schools, that number is less than 10%. A screenshot from the presentation shows the breakdown by school type:

You can access the full presentation from DPI leaders here.

Thanks to our charter leaders for their excellent service to our students!