If WCPSS Cancels School, What Happens as a Result?

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Created by Geoffrey Dean

COVID-19 has hit Wake County Public Schools. What happens next?

By Geoffrey Dean, Green Hope High School

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many students are hoping for the long term cancellation of WCPSS schools. While that may seem like a great relief on the surface, how much would Wake County canceling schools affect the wider community? Here’s a closer look at what might happen:

Bus Drivers:

WCPSS bus drivers are expected to work roughly 7-8 hours a day, 5 days a week, which amounts to approximately 35-40 hours per week. At an hourly rate of $15, this amounts to roughly $525-$600. If school were to be held out until spring break, three weeks from now, then bus drivers would lose approximately $1,575-$1,800 worth of pay. For a position that pays hourly, missing 3 of the 40 paid weeks (roughly 7.5% of the year), would be a serious financial setback for this subsect of county employees. Like many employees across North Carolina and the United States, bus drivers are not guaranteed compensation for hours they miss due to extenuating circumstances.

Students Receiving Free and Reduced Lunch:

Roughly 50,000 students in the Wake County school system, about 32% of the student population, qualify for free and reduced lunch. Through this program, students receive breakfast and lunch at a discount or completely free, to help ensure that every child in school is well-fed and ready to learn. If schools were to be canceled for three weeks, approximately a third of the students in the county would miss out 2 meals a day, 5 days a week, for 3 weeks. This amounts to 30 meals typically provided to them by the government, which is a tremendous amount of food and nourishment to which these students will lose access. With no secure source of a meal, these students could be sent home wondering if they will be able to have breakfast or lunch on any given day.

AP Students:

While not as much a matter of paycheck or no paycheck, meal or no meal, cancellation of school could have a significant impact on material coverage and preparation for AP exams. Generally held during the middle of May, AP exams are taken by 16% of WCPSS high schoolers, and can grant college credit based on performance. With the impending effects of COVID-19 yet to be determined, a three-week cancellation of school could end up shortening the preparation period for second semester AP classes tremendously. Because the AP exams are held roughly a month before the end of the second semester, students who are enrolled in these classes in the latter half of the school year already face a condensed instruction schedule, needing to cover the material in 15 weeks instead of the 18 weeks granted to the first semester, approximately 83% of the class time. Removing another three weeks off that time allotment would cut an additional 17% of classroom instruction, bringing the total loss of in-class instruction to 6 weeks, which is 33% of the semester.

This story was originally published on Falcon News Feed on March 12, 2020.