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Calendar waiver pending

The coming academic year won’t grow five days longer for most North Carolina public-school students.

N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, with the permission of the state Board of Education, last week again granted waivers from next year’s extended calendar to 92 of the state’s 115 school districts and 40 out of 100 charter schools, which are public schools.

Other school districts, including Beaufort County Schools, have requests pending, and the rest have until the end of next month to request keeping their school calendars at 180 days.

BCS officials earlier this month said they expect the waiver to be granted in time for the Beaufort County Board of Education to approve a revised calendar at its April meeting.

In granting the waivers, state public-school officials overrode the requirement passed by state lawmakers for the second straight year after several school boards complained the extra costs to operate school buses and buildings wasn’t coming with any new money. School districts estimated it could cost them about $14 million statewide to hold five more days of classes in the 2012-13 academic year, Atkinson said.

School leaders also said since the extra days would be taken out of time allotted for teacher preparation, it would displace needed training time ahead of a statewide course of study rolling out next fall.

“We projected it would cost $14 million, and that was a factor, but another factor is that we will be implementing new standards in all grades and all subjects next year, and we felt as if you could really accelerate student learning if teachers had more time to learn and work with those standards,” Atkinson said. “So, there was the two factors, the money as well as the need for professional development of our teachers to implement the standards.”

The Republican-led General Assembly last summer voted to add five days to the 180-day calendar to reach a much-discussed goal of increasing student learning by keeping them in classrooms longer. That move kept a requirement that the school year must begin no earlier than Aug. 25 and end no later than June 10.

But legislative action came just weeks before the start of the current academic year, so state school officials waived the requirement for 2011-2012.

House Speaker Thom Tillis, R-Mecklenburg, said in December he thought the extra days could be reconsidered when the Legislature reconvenes in May.

Gov. Beverly Perdue said she likes the idea of a longer school calendar, but that lawmakers needed to find a way to pay for those extra days first.