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School board adopts plan to make up snow days
by Bobby Tedder
February 21, 2014 12:13 PM | 4693 views | 0 0 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
(UPDATED FRIDAY AT 3:08 P.M. WITH QUOTE FROM DISTRICT SPOKESWOMAN SUSAN HALE)

In the wake of this winter’s twin snowstorms, Fulton County Schools officials have begun to address how students, teachers and staff will make up the at least some of the six days lost.

Officials’ much-publicized — and, in some instances, criticized — response to the inclement weather systems was a topic of discussion at last week’s Board of Education meeting at Dunwoody Springs Elementary School in Sandy Springs. But that gave way to a look ahead at salvaging the remainder of the 2013-14 school year.

“Lots of lessons were learned here,” said district Superintendent Robert Avossa. “The real question that we’ve been getting, now that we’ve moved past that is, ‘Now what?’

“How do we make up these days? How do we move forward to make sure our kids are ready?”

For starters, the board 7-0 voted to adopt a plan to address the snow days. It includes converting March 14 — originally scheduled on the 2013-14 calendar as a teacher work day — to a regular school day.

That option garnered positive feedback from the district’s principals before Thursday’s meeting, Avossa said. One idea that did not and was subsequently jettisoned involved adding 10 or 15 minutes per school day across the year.

The potential impact of the latter measure was deemed to be too insignificant to pursue, Avossa said.

“Instead of that, what we’d like to do is push CRCT [testing] back a full four days, allowing our students an opportunity to get four additional instructional days,” he said. “If you add in the March 14 [date], it’ll be a full five days of recovery.

“Even though we were originally looking at recovering three days, this will give them a full five days to be able to get some of that teaching that was lost back under their belts.”

In an email Friday, district spokeswoman Susan Hale clarified how the district is able to make up the six snow days plus one January day in which classes were cancelled due to the temperature falling to a record 5 degrees.

“The school district used its charter system status to waive the first four missed days, leaving it to contemplate how to make up instructional time for the remaining three,” she said. “Last night the board approved … allowing the schools some flexibility in how to how make up the last two days. Since the Georgia Department of Education allows districts to use a total number of hours/minutes to make up the required 180-day calendar (i.e., as long as the total hours/minutes equal the same as 180 days it doesn’t matter if it occurs through 177 days, etc.), our schools are being allowed to develop individualized plans for making up that instructional time. For some, this might mean a school day on a Saturday. For others, this might mean making teachers available after school hours to provide face-to-face instruction.”

The End of Course Test (EOCT) dates, on the other hand, will not be changed. Spring break, set for April 7 through 11; high school graduations and the last day of school, set for May 23, also will not be affected.

“We’re sort of bookended on one side by the fact that we’ve already scheduled graduations,” said Avossa. “We’ve already sent out notices to grandparents and folks coming in from across the country.

“You cannot put those seniors and those kids ready to walk across the stage in a position where they’re waiting, some of them, to take an EOCT and not have a chance to [take a] make-up [test]. That’s just not fair.”

What the district would prefer do instead, he said, is provide additional digital resources available to families, programming for some targeted grade-level content areas, tutoring for after school and funding some face-to-face extended learning opportunities.

Officials said Thursday the district’s response to the first inclement weather system, which hit Jan. 28, was less than adequate — particularly not canceling school well enough in advance.

In comparison, they lauded the district’s proactive measures taken regarding the second storm.

“I think on the do-over we got it right,” said District 5 board member Linda McCain.

In other news, the board approved the first reading of Westlake High School’s application to add an International Baccalaureate curriculum.
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