Members of the Clinton City Board of Education grappled with the remainder of the system’s academic calendar Monday as they considered how to deal with the recently missed days of school. Last week, a wintry mix of snow, sleet and some freezing rain descended on Sampson County, creating hazardous road conditions that were so concerning school officials closed school for four days, Tuesday through Friday.
“We have some decisions to make in regards to school last week,” superintendent Stuart Blount told the school board during Monday evening’s work session, a work session that was re-scheduled from last week’s original date also due to Sampson’s recent wintry weather.
With calendar in hand, Blount reminded school board members that two of the four missed school days will automatically be made up by using the two remaining inclement weather days — Monday, Feb. 17 and Friday, March 21 — already built into the system’s 180 day calendar approved in June 2013.
Addressing any thoughts on adding days to the end of the calendar, Blount pointed out that “We’re really tied into June 6 being the last day because of graduation ( June 7).”
According to Blount, school system officials had narrowed down five options for the school board to consider as ways to deal with the remaining two missed school days from last week.
Option one, he explained, would have students return to school on Friday, April 25, the last day of the system’s week-long spring break, to make up one of the days. School would also be held on Saturday, May 31.
School board member Carol Worley pointed out that having students return on the Friday of spring break seemed “useless.”
“I feel like we’d have them there just to say they’re there,” she said.
“Most aren’t going to come anyway,” agreed fellow school board member Randy Barefoot.
Option two would have the school system make up neither of the two remaining missed school days, excusing them all together.
“Due to one word change in the calendar law — ‘and’ to ‘or’ — we wouldn’t have to make up the days,” pointed out Blount, referring to the 2012 Senate Bill 187 (Session Law 2012-145) that took effect beginning with the 2013-14 school year and rewrote a portion of the calendar law (General Statute 115C-84.2). Included in this bill is legislation that calls for the school year to cover at least nine calendar months and the school calendar must be comprised of at least 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction; the city school system decided last summer to operate on and meet the 1, 025 hour requirement instead of the 185-day requirement. “We’d still have enough hours not making up the third and fourth days.”
Option three would “forgive” or “bank” one of the makeup days — April 18 — and only make up one of the missed days on Saturday, May 31, explained the superintendent, so as the create another five day school week.
Option four would also “bank” a day — April 24 — asking students to return to school on April 25 to make up only one missed day.
Lastly, the school board could opt to make up both missed school days consecutively, shortening spring break the most by having students return to school on Thursday and Friday, April 24 and 25.
“We’re one of the 91 out of 100 counties to be affected by the weather,” noted Blount, mentioning that “our neighbors to the west, Cumberland County Schools” had already chosen to make up two missed school days and “use bank time” for the remaining two.
“I think we’ve got a good plan in front of us,” said school board vice chairman E.R. Mason, acknowledging that it had been a long time since he had seen snow in January, and reminding the rest of the school board that if Sampson experienced more snow this winter, they may have to revisit the issue once again.
“We’ve tried to provide you with some options,” said Blount, acknowledging that decisions concerning make up days always affect families and communities.
“I think we should put them back in their seats and literally make up this time,” said school board member Diane Viser, expressing concern for high school students, particularly those in AP classes who have AP exams coming up soon.
Viser turned to Clinton High principal Dr. Steven Miller, who was in attendance along with all other system principals, to ask what the school was doing to try and reclaim the time lost for students. Miller, in agreement with Viser’s concern, noted that the missed school days equated to “momentum lost” and shared that the school was making fifth block mandatory for students in AP classes in effort to get back on track and regain speed.
School board member Jason Walters questioned if early release days could be changed to full school days in order to better stick to the system’s original calendar. Blount explained that utilizing early release days was an option for the school board to consider but that changing half days to full days would only gain the system a couple of hours.
As the discussion came to a close, school board chairwoman Georgina Zeng asked members to name their favored option and all ultimately agreed on option two — not making up the third and fourth missed school days.
Barefoot made a motion to make up only two days, using Feb. 17 and March 21 and Mason offered the needed second. The motion carried with a unanimous vote.
As of Tuesday afternoon, Sampson County Schools had not yet made a final decision concerning make up days.
“We are working on a plan today,” informed Susan Warren, public relations and student services coordinator for the county system, adding that school officials are “trying to look at our options and things we can do” in preparation of bringing suggestions before the county school board.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.