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Lawmakers Approve Bills to Pay Teachers and Waive School Days in Districts Hit by Hurricane Florence

North Carolina state legislators approved a set of measures Tuesday that would allow districts affected by Hurricane Florence to waive up to 20 school days and pay teachers who were out of work because of the storm.

The measures were part of a package of bills—including the Hurricane Florence Recovery Act—the General Assembly passed during a special session to aid the recovery from one of the most devastating storms in the state's history. The measures included the creation of The Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Fund and aid to assist districts that are still struggling with the storm's aftermath, according to the News and Observer.¬†

More than two weeks after Hurricane Florence made landfall as a Category 1 storm near Wrightsville Beach in New Hanover County, N.C., 28 counties are still operating under states of disaster, and many school districts in low-lying and coastal areas remain closed.

New Hanover County is expected to start school this week, with some students returning on Thursday and others starting Monday Students whose schools were heavily damaged will be relocated temporarily to other schools. In hard-hit Craven County, most students are expected to return to classes on Oct. 8.

In the days immediately following Hurricane Florence, district leaders in the hardest hit areas asked state officials to relax attendance requirements and ensure that teachers were paid for the work days they missed as a result of the storm.

One of the bills allows districts in federal disaster areas to deem up to 20 instructional days as completed and to pay educators for missed days in September and October. Charter schools can provide similar compensation for their employees, but they are not required to do so, according to the bill.

The legislators are expected to return to Raleigh on Oct. 15 to address other Hurricane Florence-related issues. There are still many unanswered education questions, including whether principals will be held responsible for student test scores at the end of the school year.

North Carolina lawmakers took action on the same day that the U. S. Department of Education announced approximately $2 million in grants to low-income students in North Carolina who were affected by the storm and about $800,000 to similar students in South Carolina. The federal funds will come from the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, which provides aid to low-income undergraduate college students.

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