Bill Summary for S 654 (2021)

Summary date: 

Jun 9 2021

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2021
Senate Bill 654 (Public) Filed Tuesday, April 6, 2021
AN ACT TO PROVIDE RELIEF TO PUBLIC SCHOOLS IN RESPONSE TO THE CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 (COVID-19) PANDEMIC.
Intro. by Ballard, Davis, Lee.

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Bill summary

House committee substitute to the 3rd edition makes the following changes.

Part III.

Adds to proposed GS 115C-84.3, which grants remote instruction authority to public school units in a county that has received a good cause waiver from the school calendar opening and closing dates under GS 115C-84.2(d). Regarding the prohibition on using remote instruction to satisfy the minimum required number of instructional days or hours for the school calendar except as permitted by subsection (b) of the proposed statute, adds that local boards can provide virtual instruction as provided in Part 3A of Article 16 of GS Chapter 115C, as enacted. Makes a clarifying change.

Makes a technical change to the proposed conforming changes to Section 6 of SL 2018-32, relating to renewal school systems. 

Part IIIA.

Makes a technical correction to the authority granted to public school units regarding remote instruction during the 2021-22 school year.

Deletes the content of previous Part IIIB., which (1) authorized a public school unit to provide virtual instruction during the 2021-22 school year to a student with consent of that student's parent or legal guardian in accordance with a virtual instruction plan providing the specified required information, so long as the plan is submitted by the governing board to DPI by June 1, 2021; (2) directed the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to make available a copy of each governing board's remote instruction plan to the specified NCGA committee and the Working Group on Virtual Academies, as enacted by the act, by July 1, 2021; and (3) established 13 requirements of a virtual instruction plan.

Deletes the content of previous Part IIIC., which directed the Superintendent of Public Instruction to establish a Working Group on Virtual Academies, provided for the Working Group to review in data and information gained from the 2020-21 school year and from the virtual instruction plans submitted by public school units for the 2021-22 school year and report to the specified NCGA committee by January 15, 2022.

Adds the following content, organized as new Part IIIB.

Enacts new Part 3A to Article 16 of GS Chapter 115C, permitting local boards to apply to the State Board of Education (State Board) for approval of virtual academies, defined as public schools that provides a majority of instructional hours through virtual instruction to all students enrolled in the school. Limits total enrollment in all virtual academies granted to the local board to 10% of the total student enrollment of that unit. Additionally limits the number of virtual academies that can be granted from one to five virtual academies based on student enrollment in the unit at the time of application. Details requirements of virtual academies, including complying with all requirements of a public school and providing software and hardware needed to an enrolled student to participate in the virtual academy. Provides that virtual academies are not required to provide transportation or food services to enrolled students. Details student eligibility expansively to include (1) any student whose parent or guardian applies for admission on that student's behalf and commits to providing internet connectivity, including students with an individualized education program (IEP) if certain criteria are met, and (2) students suspended from another public school and assigned to the virtual academy. Provides for virtual academies to require attendance in-person for specified reasons. Authorizes the State Board to establish rules for student monitoring. Details the approval process for virtual academies, which includes submission of a plan meeting specified requirements, with State Board review and approval of the plan for a period of five years, with the option for an additional five-year renewal upon resubmission of the application. Authorizes revocation of approval based on substantial noncompliance with the new Part's requirements or the approved plan. Allows for the unit to obtain written approval for plan modifications from the State Board. Requires assignment of a school code and principal for each school. Requires the State Board to evaluate approved virtual academies based on specified measures and annually report to the specified NCGA committee by November 15.

Directs the State Board to adopt emergency rules for the new Part's implementation for use in the 2021-22 school year only. Requires the State Board to make its first evaluation report by November 15, 2022. 

Allows a local unit that has been assigned a school code to operate with virtual instruction as the primary means of instruction by May 1, 2021, to continue such operation to satisfy the minimum required number of instructional days or hours for the 2021-22 school calendar.

Authorizes charter schools to provide blended learning that includes virtual instruction during the 2021-22 school year if the Office of Charter Schools has approved a curriculum amendment allowing such for that school year by September 1, 2021. 

Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

Adds the following new content, organized as Part VIII.

Makes the following social studies standard course of study changes apply in order to provide additional time for the development of content and to ensure sufficient professional development opportunities delayed due to COVID-19: (1) the course requirements of GS 115C-81.45(d), Founding Principles of the United States of America and North Carolina: Civic Literacy, applicable to all students entering the ninth grade in the 2022-23 school year; and (2) the course requirements of GS 115C-81.65, Economics and Personal Finance, applicable to all students entering the ninth grade in the 2022-23 school year. Bars implementation of all other revisions to the social studies standard course of study prior to the 2022-23 school year. Makes conforming changes to renumber the remaining Parts of the act.

Part IX.

Expands the proposed extension for a continuing professional license applicant whose license expires June 30, 2021, to meet the exam requirements established by the State Board as of June 30, 2021, applicable to applicants holding a current initial professional license, residency license, lateral entry license, or limited license expiring June 30, 2021, to also include those who have not met the coursework requirements established by the State Board as of June 30, 2021, granting an extension until September 30, 2021.

Modifies the qualifications for a residency license under GS 115C-270.20(a)(5) to allow for the individual to hold a bachelor's degree and/or an advanced degree (was bachelor's degree only).

Part X.

Deletes the proposed changes to GS 115C-84.2(f)(5), establishing an alternative plan for year-round schools for local school administrative units with both single- and multi-track instructional calendars as new sub-subdivision d. Instead, revises the second of the three plans a year-round school is permitted to use to provide instructional days throughout the entire school calendar year to describe the plan as providing students be schedules to attend four quarters of between 43 and 47 instructional days each school calendar year, with vacation periods for students of between 14 and 18 days separating each quarter (was, providing students be scheduled to attend 45 instructional days followed by 15 days of vacation, repeated throughout the school calendar year). Applies beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

Adds the following new content.

Part XI.

Makes the following applicable for the 2021-22 school year, if the total kindergarten average daily membership (ADM) for the first month of the 2021-22 school year for a local unit is 5% or more than that of the first month of the 2019-20 school year for that unit: (1) prohibits the average class size for kindergarten in that unit from exceeding one teacher per 20 students; and (2) prohibits an individual class in kindergarten in that unit from exceeding one teacher per 23 students at the end of the second school month and for the remainder of the school year.

Part XII.

Amends Section 3.2 of SL 2021-25 (Additional COVID-19 Response & Relief), increasing the amount of federal funds to be received by the State under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund from $3,260,772,535 to $3,599,191,706. Make conforming adjustments to the total federal funds set forth in the schedule. Removes the provision that appropriates federal funds received by the State under the ARPA from the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund only up to the estimated amount set forth in the schedule, as now amended.

Amends Section 3.5 of SL 2021-25, which requires DPI to use the Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief Fund funds appropriated in Section 3.2 of that act to allocate the federal grant funds to public school units pursuant to the specified provisions under the ARPA, and to reserve a specified amount of the funds pursuant to the specified provisions under the ARPA to be used in specified amounts for two specified purposes. Increases the amount of funds required to be reserved from $21.5 million to $359,919,171, and provides for 24 additional allocations in the amounts specified for the following uses, with applicable requirements and restrictions set forth for each: 

  1. To be held in reserve by DPI to be allocated to public school units as grants to support COVID-19 related needs, as specified;
  2. To be held in a reserve by DPI to be allocated to public school units as grants to support COVID-19 related needs, as specified;
  3. For the deployment of a competency-based education platform that meets certain objectives, with interim and final reporting deadlines provided;
  4. To support a common learning management system to be used for in-person and remote instruction for grades K-5 for up to three years, and authorizing use for the kindergarten readiness programed based on the Science of Reading;
  5. For teacher and principal professional development for implementing the Science of Reading and the requirements of the Excellent Public Schools Act of 2021;
  6. To contract with external research partners under SL 2021-1, as enacted by SL 2021-3 to assess the impact of COVID-19 on public school units and the State's responses;
  7. For five new time-limited and full-time equivalent positions in the Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration and associated operating costs in response to the pandemic;
  8. To support the expansion of the NC Preschool Pyramid Model across and within local unit preschool programs and to support its implementation in kindergarten;
  9. To establish a grant program in response to the pandemic to contract with school health support services to provide additional physical and mental health support services for students, and to contract with specified persons and entities to identify and locate missing students, with annual reporting requirements provided;
  10. To contract with a third-party entity for a period of up to two years to develop and implement a system of tracking expenditures of State and federal funds provided for subscription services and technology in response to the pandemic;
  11. To establish one new time-limited and full-time equivalent position within DPI to manage new software platforms for public school units funded pursuant to Section 3.5 of SL 2021-25;
  12. For the School Planning Section to contract with a third-party entity in response to the pandemic to make available to all local units and counties a consolidated education-related expense database and a software platform to advertise nationwide requests for proposal from local units and counties for education-related products and services;
  13. To be allocated to public school units on the basis of ADM in response to the pandemic to contract with a third-party entity for technology to mitigate cyberbullying, monitor student online activity, monitor classroom educational devices, and assist with suicide prevention services;
  14. To local school administrative units and charter schools to account for additional students enrolled during the 2021-22 school year as a result of the pandemic, at the rate of $600 per month for each student enrolled above the number of students accounted for in the funded ADM for the unit or school from the 2020-21 school year;
  15. To be allocated to public school units to provide teachers with up to an eleventh month salary, with eligibility limited to growth and veteran teachers, as defined;
  16. For outreach to and support of NC families affected by COVID-19;
  17. To contract with Schools That Lead, Inc., to establish the Schools That Lead Program to provide professional development to teachers and principals beginning with the 2021-22 school year and ending with the 2023-24 school year in up to 75 schools, with a certain amount required to be used to contract with an independent research organization to measure the impacts of the Program, with reporting requirements provided;
  18. To provide coaching support and professional development for principals and school improvement leadership teams in local units, as specified, with authority to use a specified amount for 20 time-limited or full-time equivalent DPI positions to support such activities;
  19. To be transferred to the UNC Board of Governors to be allocated to the National College Advertising Corps, Inc. to support a temporary expansion of the placement of college advisers in NC public schools through their program over a two-year period, as specified, with matching and reporting requirements provided;
  20. To  be allocated to Communities in Schools of NC, Inc. to provide for the extension of nine-month contracts for its employees to provide assistance and enrichment activities over the summers for K-12 students experiencing learning loss and negative impacts from COVID-19;
  21. To be used for career and technical education programs to provide options for students outside traditional classroom instruction during the pandemic, with a specified amount used to provide grants to local units to create pilot programs for the expansion of credentials and certifications and a specified amount used as grants to nationally certified programs focused on developing critical skills necessary for students to succeed in the retail sector;
  22. To be allocated to the NC Education Corps to partner with public school units to recruit, train, and deploy corps members to work as tutors and mentors with public school students;
  23. To contract with the State Education Assistance Authority to establish and administer the Student Success Program to allow parents of eligible children to use federal funds intended to mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 towards allowable educational uses of their choice to address student learning loss and provide supplemental educational support, subject to DPI obtaining a letter of determination by the US Department of Education that this use is consistent with federal law and guidelines (as directed within 15 days of the date the act becomes law and with notice upon receipt of a determination to the Authority as specified), with details for the Program including eligibility, grant amounts, applications and priority, uses and limitations, administration and funding;
  24. To reallocate any funds that are unencumbered from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief III Fund reserve of funds pursuant to the specified provisions of ARPA on August 15, 2023, for expenditures on or after that date to meet additional needs of the elementary and secondary schools of the State within federal law and guidelines, as determined by the State Board.

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