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Education briefs: Leaders reinforce need for face coverings

SALISBURY – As the Rowan County educational community prepares to welcome students for the fall semester, local colleges and Rowan-Salisbury Schools are committed to ensuring the safety of faculty, staff and students by requiring that all individuals wear appropriate cloth face coverings while on each of their campuses.

The Rowan Educational Collaborative, which includes Rowan-Salisbury Schools, Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, Livingstone College and Catawba College, has determined that anyone visiting local educational campuses should wear a mask and practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

“We know this scenario is not what anyone had in mind when picturing what this fall’s educational landscape would look like. These are unprecedented times that require an abundance of safety, flexibility, patience and compassion as we work to ensure that students can continue to meet their goals,” Rowan-Cabarrus Community College President Carol. Spalding said.

Rowan County educational institutions will deliver a combination of remote and in-person instruction at all levels as the semester begins.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all campus reopening plans require behaviors to curb the spread of COVID-19, including wearing masks consistently and correctly, staying six feet from others, and practicing proper hand-washing and the use of hand sanitizers.

“With the common goal of safely providing the best possible education and learning environment for the students of Rowan County, we also share a strong commitment to the well-being of our community,” said Lynn Moody, superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools. “We will wear masks, and we ask others to join us in doing the same. Wearing masks, along with maintaining physical distancing and implementing stringent cleaning and disinfecting measures, is our best defense. We ask for grace and patience as together we open this historical new school year.”

Cloth face coverings are recommended as a barrier to prevent the spread of COVID-19 via respiratory droplets in the air. Schools and local colleges also will take steps such as limiting class size, conducting health screenings, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

“These measures are necessary for us to stay as safe as possible as we continue our mission to deliver quality education, no matter what the circumstances,” Livingstone  College President Jimmy Jenkins said. “I am confident in the ability of our faculty, staff and students to move forward with resilience and courage.”

The Rowan Educational Collaborative, which also includes representatives from the Rowan County Board of Commissioners and Economic Development Commission, meets regularly in an effort to align educational priorities across the county. The overall goal is to provide quality education that exceeds national attainment rates and prepares students for in-demand local careers.

“Rowan County is fortunate to have a robust educational community that is focused on working together for the benefit of our entire area,” Catawba College President David Nelson said. “We are in this together, and together we will meet the challenges of COVID-19 and continue to prepare students for success.”

State awards grants to 34 charter schools to increase internet access for students

RALEIGH – Nearly three dozen charter schools across North Carolina have been awarded five-year grants ranging from $300,000 to $900,000 by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to attract and enroll more educationally disadvantaged students.

The State Board of Education this month approved the grants, totaling $17.4 million, under an initiative of DPI’s Office of Charter Schools called Advancing Charter Collaboration and Excellence for Student Success, or ACCESS. The program is funded with $36.6 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education that the Office of Charter Schools was awarded during the last two years as part of the federal Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter Schools Program.

The funds are intended for new and existing  charter schools to better meet the needs of traditionally underserved students – those who are economically disadvantaged, homeless, non-native English speakers, students with disabilities, immigrant students, migrant students or are or unaccompanied youth. In the initial round of funding in 2019, the Office of Charter Schools awarded nine schools with five-year grants ranging from $250,000 to $600,000. To date, the ACCESS Program has awarded more than $20 million in subgrants to support equity in charter schools.

Schools use the funds to increase and support their enrollment of underserved students through implementing weighted lotteries and school lunch programs; buying buses and enhancing transportation options; providing professional development and training for teachers; and increasing student access to technology and resources.

The key goals of the ACCESS Program are to:

  • Award 60 competitive subgrants to increase the number of educationally disadvantaged students attending high-quality charter schools and to expand the number of high-quality charter schools available to educationally disadvantaged students.
  • Develop a cohort of 160 charter school leaders who can develop and demonstrate best practices in serving educationally disadvantaged students.
  • Broadly disseminate best practices in serving educationally disadvantaged students and foster collaboration in the charter school community and between charter schools and traditional public schools.

North Carolina currently has 200 charter schools, including seven opening for the 2020-21 school year. Charter schools are public schools of choice that are authorized by the State Board of Education and operated by independent non-profit boards of directors. State and local tax dollars are the primary funding sources for charter schools, which have open enrollment and cannot discriminate in admissions, associate with any religion or religious group, or charge-tuition. They must hold a lottery for seats if the school is oversubscribed.

Charter schools operate with freedom from many of the regulations that govern district schools, but charter schools are held accountable through the state assessment and accountability system.

A.L. Brown Cyber Campus receives $80,000 grant
Kannapolis City Schools has received an $80,000 grant from the Cannon Foundation to upgrade the Cyber Campus at A. L. Brown High School.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students. Just as the original iteration of the Cyber Campus brought about cutting-edge ways for students to communicate and collaborate with one another, this new era will connect them with students, people, and resources from across the state,” A.L. Brown Principal Angelo Dellisanti shard. “This is an exciting time in the history of A. L. Brown and we are fortunate to share this moment with The Cannon Foundation.”

In a press release, Kannapolis City Schools said it  committed to effectively using the upgrades to improve learning experiences for our students in and sharing those opportunities with Cabarrus County Schools.

“Kannapolis City Schools is so grateful to The Cannon Foundation for their continued support”, KCS Superintendent Chip Buckwell said. “They have always been a great partner to further improve experiences for our students.  The Cyber Campus is one of a few school-based Cyber Campuses in North Carolina.  This upgrade will allow students to access cutting-edge technology and instruction and share their experiences with the world.”

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