District Calls for Increased Funding, Flexibility from General Assembly
April 3, 2020 – In a virtual meeting on Tuesday, Guilford County Schools leaders called on the local delegation of the North Carolina General Assembly to allocate additional funding to GCS and other districts that have moved quickly to continue teaching, learning, feeding and caring for students and families in the days since Governor Roy Cooper closed schools to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
GCS in particular has taken on the role of caregiver to children of hospital workers at Cone Health and High Point Regional. The district has opened three childcare centers for these families at Irving Park Elementary, Hunter Elementary and Shadybrook Elementary, each staffed by GCS employees and school nurses.
The district has also served more than 184,000 meals at more than 100 locations since the governor’s action, supporting the more than 65% of students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals. Unfortunately, the employees staffing these locations do not have access to personal protective equipment.
Superintendent Sharon L. Contreras requested funding for these materials, as well as statewide overtime pay for those who are filling the vital roles of childcare and school nutrition. The district announced on Sunday it would be paying these hourly employees time and a half during the month of April.
“Now more than ever, these employees deserve to be paid a fair wage, but GCS cannot support that effort alone,” says Contreras. “The state must take responsibility for the invaluable service that GCS and other school districts across North Carolina are providing to sustain families during this worldwide health crisis.”
Contreras also called for the state’s help in increasing the number of internet access points in the community and negotiating with telecommunications companies to provide free or discounted rates for families who can’t afford these services at home. GCS is using grant funds to install 15 outdoor wireless access points throughout the county, but more are needed. One potential solution would be to borrow college and university hotspots, now sitting on empty campuses, and redeploy them to K12 campus parking lots and public housing developments.
Other requests discussed included:
- Increased calendar flexibility and waivers for the number of instructional hours required for the 2019-20 school year;
- The ability to use e-learning rather than make-up days for school closures due to inclement weather, power outages, police actions and other unforeseen situations;
- More hours of in-home assistance for families of students with disabilities, who cannot use e-learning as a replacement for the services provided by schools;
- A state budget for 2019-20 that covers expenses related to the COVID-19 school closure and separate reimbursement for the childcare services provided, as well as a raise for all public school employees.
- Tax-exempt status for school systems, especially in light of the many supplies and technology being purchased to meet these immediate needs.