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Legislation to reopen schools addressed at Dare Board of Education meeting

On March 11, 2021, Gov. Roy Cooper signed the Reopen Our Schools Act, which passed both the North Carolina House and Senate unanimously.

A compromise agreement was announced March 10, and SB 220 was passed by the Senate. On March 11, the House passed the legislation, which was ratified and delivered to the governor, who signed it at 5:22 p.m.

At the Dare Board of Education meeting on March 9, Superintendent John Farrelly addressed the legislation and on Wednesday sent out an email blast about the legislation to Dare County Schools families. The legislation is effective 21 days after signing, or around April 1.

Dare County’s Board of Education implemented some of the legislation’s requirements March 1, when Dare students returned to in-person education.

For example, all Dare elementary schools are open for in-person learning, four days per week. Middle and high schools are operating on a hybrid schedule with cohorts attending in-person two days and remotely two days with six-foot social distancing. Under the legislation, Grades 6 through 12 can operate full-time in-person if the local board sends a plan to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.

Students with an Individualized Education Program must have an option to attend in-person full time at the discretion of the parent or guardian, reports Farrelly. The superintendent says a special called meeting of the Board of Education will be needed to modify the system’s current 6-12 hybrid program.

Virtual instruction is required to be offered. About 1,200 students in grades 6-12 in the Dare System are enrolled virtually.

The legislation requires local school districts to comply with requirements in the StrongSchools Public Health Toolkit as it existed on March 4, 2021. That toolkit requires one student per seat on the school bus, unless siblings are on the same bus. It means buses are transporting about 24 students each trip. Farrelly said “very few” double bus runs are required. The system will stay with one student per seat, said the superintendent.

At the March 9 meeting, Dare’s Board of Education debuted its streamed meeting. Board members were arrayed in a semi-circle with one member for each table.

During the agenda’s announcement item, Farrelly reported the board will continue to meet at First Flight High School through June.

The school system’s budget process is underway. The Dare County Schools budget is around $63 million, one-third of which is support from Dare County. Farrelly reported that percentage is “unheard of across the state.” Under the system’s budget schedule, the school board will receive a draft budget April 13. The budget needs to be submitted to the county’s Board of Commissioners in May.

“We’re thrilled,” said the superintendent reflecting on the reopening of Dare County schools. He indicated that education plans may be adjusted during spring break.

School board member Joe Tauber said “there’s high confidence in the Dare County Schools.”

About sports, the inside and outside cap is 30%. No showing up at the door or gate, said Farrelly. Tickets are made available to the student-athletes for families and to the visiting school.

A revised and updated program of study will be posted online March 24. The document is particularly important to rising ninth graders to understand the requirements for graduation.

On the consent agenda, the following budget amendments were adopted:

– Increased state budget adjusted allotments by $42,682.29, increasing school connectively and decreasing principal bonuses.

– Increased federal budgets to show decreased risk pool allotment and increased GEER funds from Department of Public Instruction in the amount of $206,083.

– Increased budget by $8,716 for bonus for NCPK employees and by $18,810 for After-School Enrichment Program employees.

-Increased capital outlay budget by $300,000 to show an “additional Dare County appropriation of capital outlay funds that were requested but not funded due to uncertainty of pandemic.”

– Added $50,672 to state budgets for non-instructional and behavioral support.

– Decreased federal budgets by $20,008 to reflect actual allotments rather than planning allotments.

– Increased capital outlay by $36,035 to show sale of old assets on GovDeals and appropriate fund balance of $4,685 for purchase order rolled over from Fiscal Year 2020.

– Increased budget $1,562 to show COVID allotment and $10,000 to show Dominion Energy donation.

On the consent agenda, the board also:

– Approved the proposed budget for the Government and Education Access Channels.

– Approved the $10,000 donation from the North Carolina Education Lottery. Shelawn Burton, site coordinator for the Manteo Elementary After-School Enrichment Program, was selected as a North Carolina School Hero by the lottery program for the 2019-20 school term. The award was postponed due to COVID-19. Shelawn Burton received $10,000 and her school, Manteo Elementary, also received $10,000.

For the school board, a budget workshop is scheduled for April 1 at 2 p.m. at First Flight High School. The next school board meeting is set for Tuesday, April 13, 2021 at 5 p.m., also at First Flight High School.

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