This week marks the six-month anniversary of the creation of FAST NC, the bipartisan initiative led by current and former education leaders to combine efforts and raise funds in response to Hurricane Florence. Dubbed “Florence: Aid to Students and Teachers of North Carolina (FAST NC),” the unprecedented effort has helped schools return to normal following the devastating storm.
“Thank you everyone who donated or helped us spread the word about FAST NC. The outpouring of support for these schools has been overwhelming to say the least," said Mike Ward, FAST NC leader and former state superintendent. "We want to express our gratitude for the teachers, media coordinators, and administrators who stepped up by submitting applications. They’re doing incredible things in very difficult circumstances. We’re happy to be supporting them."
The destructive storm battered parts of North Carolina, including 35 school districts in 34 North Carolina counties that President Donald Trump declared federal disaster counties. Those counties represent more than 535,000 students, or about a third of all N.C. public school students. More than 5,000 students were left homeless by the storm.
“We have seen tremendous efforts from educators, various school personnel, and donors from across the country to help get our schools back to normal,” State Superintendent Mark Johnson said. “Some of the hardest hit districts are seeing improvements thanks to teachers, administrators, school nutrition staff, FAST NC, and many others. Though there is still work to be done, I’m hopeful that we can get there.”
Members of the FAST NC Steering Committee are:
- Mark Johnson, state superintendent
- June Atkinson, former state superintendent
- Mike Ward, former state superintendent
- Eric Davis, chairman of the State Board of Education
- Henry Johnson, former U.S. assistant secretary of education and former Mississippi state superintendent
- Phil Kirk, former chairman of the State Board of Education
We continue to have great support for FAST NC. Grant applications continue to come in, and as of today, the State Board of Education, through FAST NC, has approved nearly 60 grants, totaling nearly $365,000. Additionally, Communities in Schools of North Carolina has awarded six FAST NC Grants totaling more than $140,000.
A sample of FAST NC grants includes:
- Pender County Schools: $72,653 for a backup generator
- Columbus County Schools, East Columbus High School: $108 replacement of teacher’s textbooks
- Pender County Schools: $14,000 for replacement of materials and supplies for teachers and teacher assistants
- Columbus County Schools, Tabor City Elementary School: $7,286 to replace damaged playground equipment
- Public Schools of Robeson County, Long Branch Elementary School: $5,112 to replace book collections
- Girls Leadership Academy of Wilmington: $4,767 for roof repairs and increased transportation costs.
FAST NC is still raising funds to help students and educators. The effort is currently on round 10 of its grant cycle, which will end tomorrow. Visit www.ncpublicschools.org/fastnc/ to learn more about FAST NC, to apply for a grant, or to donate.
Another effort to help our state recover from Florence is the NC Reads Book Drive. This initiative will help children build early childhood literacy, as well as increase parental engagement through book donations. There are designated donation locations where organizations will collect donated books then drop them off at their closest NC Reads partner.
To keep the great work of FAST NC going, the Department of Public Instruction and the N.C. Education Lottery have teamed up to help remind North Carolinians that even after six months, many residents are still suffering from the effects of Hurricane Florence. With the help of Jones County schools, the Education Lottery has produced a public service announcement that highlights just how badly the storm has affected part of the state and the help that is still needed. Although many North Carolina residents have moved past Hurricane Florence, many are still suffering and need support.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.