The Transylvania Times -

By John Lanier
Editor 

Academy Revises Calendar - Brevard, NC

 

Last updated 3/18/2020 at 4:01pm



In response to Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order to close all K-12 schools for students from March 16-30, the Brevard Academy: A Challenge Foundation Academy Board of Directors voted unanimously to revise the school calendar.

School director Ted Duncan told the board, which was meeting via teleconference, that the board has the authority to designate the 10 days as mandatory teacher workdays or annual leave days and that boards can revise their school calendars.

Duncan proposed March 16-20 be designated teacher workdays, but that March 23-26 be designated annual leave days – days teacher do not have to work.

“The staff is working extremely hard right now,” said Duncan.

He said teachers could use the four days next week to spend time with family or attend to other matters. Friday, March 27, would be a virtual teacher workday.

In addition to designating those days, Duncan also proposed that spring break be shortened from a full week to just two days – Friday, April 10, and Monday, April 13.

After the board unanimously approved the proposed changes to the school calendar, Duncan talked about the steps that have been taken to provide distance learning to students if the school closure extends beyond March 30.

He said more than 118 Chromebooks have been distributed and the school would use Google Classroom as the platform to conduct instruction and receive feedback.

Students would be given specific assignments and those assignments would have to be completed by a certain date. Duncan said if a student becomes ill while working from home, the student would have time to catch up.

“There should be flexibility in those completion dates,” he said.

Duncan said the school would communicate with parents by email and conference calls and is looking at some texting applications. He said parents are not teachers, so it is important for teachers to provide feedback on academic assignments.

“Teaching is not just presenting and walking away,” said Duncan.

He said the school would post a “Google Classroom for parents” document on its website to help parents understand how their children should interact with teachers.

As for those who do not have internet capabilities, Duncan said the school is still working to address that problem. Since Brevard Academy has students from Buncombe and Henderson counties, as well as Transylvania, he noted that Spectrum and Comporium communications companies are offering free internet services to families that are not currently served for a period of 60 days.

He said the school would work to “narrow” the number of families without internet connections and then offer other options. In addition to providing instruction, the school is continuing to provide lunches. On Tuesday, the school distributed 45 lunches to its students.

“We’ll do this as long as we can staff it,” he said.

Board Chair Adrienne Casteen asked if there are any plans to check on students who may have behavioral or mental health issues. Duncan said guidance counselor Megan Monk and school resource officer Jenny Light know who those students are and are working with the Department of Social Services and Meridian Behavioral Health to make sure those students are being checked on. In regard to financial questions, Duncan said the school is continuing to pay instructional and non-instructional staff.

“Pay is uninterrupted at this time,” said Duncan.

According to the governor’s executive order, “All staff remain in work status and are eligible to be paid.”

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction also stated, “Hourly employees can be assigned alternative duties to maintain their regular work schedule.”

Casteen lauded the move to continue paying because they do not need an “extra stressor” at this time.

Duncan also said DPI has informed schools to keep track of expenses above their operational costs due to the coronavirus and that the schools would be reimbursed for those expenses.

“We can ask for reimbursement later,” he said.

Duncan also said the school is working with other local government and nonprofit organizations to make school facilities available if necessary.

For example, the school has made its gym available to nonprofit organizations that would be providing child care.

The county department or nonprofit organization using the facility would be responsible for the program.

“The logistics are being figured out by the department that would be using it. We’re just offering the space,” said Duncan.

Casteen said she appreciates all of the work Duncan and the school staff have done, particularly in taking on the “incredible task” of developing a distance learning system.

The board of directors voted to hold another meeting via teleconference next Tuesday, March 24, at 5 p.m.

 
 

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