Late snow puts crimp in spring break

Schools, parents grapple with making up time

Staff WritersMarch 3, 2009 


    April 13


    Traditional-calendar schools

    March 30-April 1


    March 13

    No makeup date set for Monday.


    Traditional-calendar schools

    No makeup date set for Monday.

    Year-round calendar schools

    March 30

    June 5

    No makeup date set for Monday


    April 16-17


    Traditional-calendar schools

    April 6-7

    Modified-calendar schools

    March 9-11

    Year-round calendar schools


    April 4

    Wake Early College

    April 9

    May 26-27

  • Most Johnston County schools will open on a two-hour delay. The county's Early College and Middle College will be on a regular schedule.

    The Wake, Chatham, Durham, Orange County and Chapel Hill-Carrboro school systems will open on a two-hour delay.



A front-page article Tuesday had an incorrect quote from Louise Lee, head of Save Our Summers. The quote should have said, "I enjoy my spring break as much as anyone, and I empathize with parents who have already made plans. However, sometimes we have to look at the big picture, and this picture has more variables to consider than most people realize."


Thousands of Triangle students might play hooky next month, with the complicity of their parents.

School districts across the region are cutting into spring break to replace days such as Monday that have been lost because of snowstorms. That's forcing a tough choice on families who have already bought airline tickets and paid for out-of-town vacations -- scrap their spring break plans or have their kids skip school.

"Family is very important to us, and I hate to cancel on my sister, so we might have to skip school, which I hate to do," said Patricia Snow of Raleigh, who's planning to take her two children at Martin Middle School to Florida for spring break. "I'm sure we're not the only ones."

Because of snowstorm class cancellations this week and in January, spring break will be shortened for traditional-calendar schools in Wake, Orange, Johnston and Chatham counties. Students will also have to return to class a day early in Chapel Hill-Carrboro, attending April 13, a teacher workday tacked onto the end of the district's official spring break.

"They know the other shoe will drop," said Ed Holub, who has two children in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system. "There really aren't any free days anymore."

Durham school officials haven't decided yet whether they'll cut into spring break to make up for Monday's snow day.

Attendance will probably be down on the makeup days originally scheduled during spring break, said Dawn Dawson, who coordinates the Wake school district's calendar committee.

Historically, absences in Wake schools double on makeup days affecting the more than 80,000 students in traditional calendar schools in the state's largest school district.

Dawson said Saturdays haven't been considered as makeup days for traditional-calendar schools because of transportation and overtime issues. Chapel Hill-Carrboro would only use Saturdays if it runs out of spring break days.

Limited by law

But school officials across the state say they're forced to shorten spring break to schedule makeup days. They blame a state law passed in 2004 that says traditional-calendar public schools can't start before Aug. 25 or end after June 10, reducing their options when storms force them to cancel class.

"We can't add any more days at the end of the school year," Dawson said. "The calendar law really puts us in a bind with our weather makeup days."

Dawson said the reason families are so upset this year is that it's the first time since the calendar law went into effect that spring break has been affected by snow cancellations.

The calendar law passed with the support of the tourism industry and Save Our Summers, a parent group that favors a long summer vacation. It was opposed by school officials who have been trying to repeal the law because they say it limits their flexibility to set schedules.

But Louise Lee, head of Save Our Summers, said the calendar law has benefits such as parents getting more affordable child care during summer and has helped students get summer jobs.

"I enjoy my spring break as much as anyone, and I empathize with parents who have already made plans," Lee said. "However we sometimes have to look at the big picture and this picture has more variables to consider than most people realize."

Parents are now weighing their spring break options.

Snow, the Wake County mom, pointed out that early April is the perfect time to visit her family in South Florida. "We have reservations to go diving in the coral in Key Largo," she said.

It wasn't tough for Jolynn Lawson of Cary to decide to go through with plans to visit family in Florida for spring break, even though that means her three children will miss a day or two at Davis Drive Elementary School.

"They're not struggling with anything, and we haven't missed that many days of school," said Lawson, who was sledding with her children on Monday.

But Monday's snow forced Pamela Yannoni to practice what she preaches.

Six months ago, her family made spring break reservations for a resort in Florida, a vacation that would stretch from Sunday to Sunday.

But with two snow days, making that trip would mean her second- and sixth-graders would miss two days at Weatherstone Elementary and Martin Middle schools -- a violation of the family's go-to-school mantra. So they shortened the trip by two days.

"We thought it was really important to be consistent with our message," said Yannoni, who lives in Cary. "For us to just take off for a few days to have fun, it's not really consistent."

Still, playing in the rare March snow, she was a little bewildered that her spring break plans had gone awry.

"Who ever heard of snow in North Carolina in March?" she asked. or 919-829-4534

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