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New North Carolina law allows charter flexibility for entire school district

A new North Carolina law offers an entire school district the kind of flexibility that’s currently available to the state’s charters, WUNC reports. 

The station notes that the new state law—creating a so-called “Renewal School System”—will impact schools in the Rowan-Salisbury Schools district.

Last year, the district counted 16 of its 35 school already participating in the state’s “Restart” model, allowing charter-like flexibility for struggling schools. Now, the new law will allow school district leaders to adopt those rules in all schools.

The new model comes with some traditional school district leaders seeking the kind of leeway over curriculum, calendar and staffing granted to charters, which are also publicly-funded schools.

More from WUNC:

Rowan-Salisbury School administrators say being a “Renewal School System” will allow them to make more efficient and effective decisions across the district. Last school year, 16 of the 35 schools in the district had restart status, which qualifies the district as having the highest percentage of restart schools of any district in the state.

Superintendent Lynn Moody says it’s been tough handling a district where about half the schools had the status and half didn’t.

“It was a matter of trying to manage two different districts,” Moody said. “We had one set of rules for our restart schools, and one set of rules for our more traditional schools.”

That meant two separate budgets, and sometimes different calendars in schools that served the same families. North High School, a restart school, adjusted its schoolyear to a year-round calendar, but a nearby middle school that fed into the high school did not have restart status, and was on a traditional calendar.

“We’re placing a burden on our families in that area of our community on how they’re going to get their babies to school every day,” said Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ Chief Financial Officer Carol Herndon, adding that many families in that community depend on public transportation to meet their day-to-day needs.

The new status will give all the schools in the district the same flexibility. That will allow them more options when it comes to budgeting, curriculum, hiring non-traditional teachers, and giving students more instruction time.

Superintendent Moody pushed for the new designation. She says she hopes being relieved of standards and restrictions placed on traditional public schools will allow the district to innovate and improve educational outcomes across the county.

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