The Wilkes County Schools will have a supplemental educational program for students in kindergarten through fourth grade whose learning was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

The “Jump Start” program is required statewide under House Bill 1043. Qualifying students will be invited to participate and doing so is optional.

It can be provided as a summer or after-school program, but not as part of scheduled instructional time in the 2020-21 school year, said Dr. Donna Cotton, chief academic officer for the Wilkes schools.

Wilkes school officials are in the middle of creating the local plan and don’t yet know the dates, said Cotton. School systems must submit their plans to the State Board of Education by June 22.

Explaining the program during the June 1 school board meeting, Cotton said K-4 students in the 2019-20 school year not on track to meeting yearend reading and/or math expectations before in-person classes were cancelled March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible.

Istation test assessments determined if K-3 students were on track with reading, while reading teachers determined this for fourth-graders. Math teachers determined if K-4 students were on track to meeting their math expectations.

Cotton said all funds allocated to a school system must be used and the program completed by Dec. 30.

She said the legislation authorizes using state funds for transportation and food service for participating students.

Cotton said is must include evidence-based resources and a 16:1 or less student to teacher ratio. It also must include outreach to families of participating students and optional activities at home.

New Wilkes school calendar

Classes in the Wilkes schools next year will start Aug. 17 and end May 26 in a revised school calendar approved by the Wilkes school board at its June 1 meeting. This replaced a calendar with classes starting Aug. 24 and ending May 27, approved in early December.

The calendar was revised to comply with N.C. Senate Bill 704, signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper on May 4 as part of a COVID-19 relief plan.

Dr. Westley Wood, assistant superintendent, said the revised calendar includes 169 face-to-face instructional days, which is based on teacher employment contracts. Wood said this meets a Senate Bill 704 requirement of having five more face-to-face instructional days. There were 164 in 2019-20.

He said Senate Bill 704 also requires that classes start on Aug. 17 and end no later than June 11.

The revised calendar also meets Senate Bill 704’s requirement of having five remote student learning days, which can’t be scheduled before Aug. 24. It also meets the required total of 215 days, including class days, holidays, annual leave days and teacher workdays.

Wood said the length of class days in 2020-21 will be consistent with the length in 2019-20.

The revised calendar has 11 days off for Christmas and the calendar it replaced had 12 days off. It allows two full weeks of classes before Labor Day (Sept. 7) like the calendar it replace, the same full week off for Thanksgiving (Nov. 23-27) and the same dates for spring break (April 2 and April 5-9).

Remote learning plans

Cotton said Senate Bill 704 requires that school systems develop plans for remote learning for the 2020-21 school year.

“The purpose is to have a detailed framework for delivering quality remote instruction to all students” if this becomes necessary.

Cotton said that since March 16, the Wilkes schools have been doing emergency remote learning. “We were thrown in to it and did the very best we could. I think we did a great job at what we did.”

She continued, “This is giving us an opportunity to be very specific and detailed if we ever had to go to this type of instruction again.”

These plans must include certain elements as detailed in Senate Bill 704. 

School athletic insurance

Also during its June 1 meeting, the school board unanimously approved using Raleigh-based Young Group for high school and middle school athletic insurance instead of renewing with American Advantage.

American Advantage bid $31,182 for the insurance premium paid by the school system, unchanged from the prior three years, and the Young Group bid of $27,983.

Seth Prevette, Wilkes school finance director, recommended the Young Group because of its lower bid. He said the same number of expected athletes next year was quoted for both companies.

Prevette said there have been no problems with American Advantage. He said spokesmen for both companies told him they would refund part of the premium if fall semester public school athletics were cancelled due to COVID-19.

Continuing budget resolution

The school board unanimously approved a continuing budget resolution, based on the fact that final budget figures won’t be known in time to approve a new budget by the start of the new fiscal year on July 1.

Seth Prevette, Wilkes school finance director, recommended this action. It allows the school system to operate on the current budget.

Board Chairman Rudy Holbrook said the next scheduled school board meeting is at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 3 since no board meeting is scheduled in July.

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