Future snow days could bump into state's class-time law

But future snow days could bump into the state’s class-time law

khui@newsobserver.comJanuary 28, 2013 

WEATHER.NE.012813.TI

Traffic moves along Interstate 40 on Monday morning in the Triangle where a freezing rain advisory was in effect through 9 a.m.

TAKAAKI IWABU — tiwabu@newsobserver.com Buy Photo

Most Triangle students won’t have to make up the time they missed Friday and Monday, but it could be a different story when new state requirements for class time go into effect next school year.

Local school officials say they can absorb the loss of as much as seven hours of time when schools closed early Friday and started late Monday amid the threat of snow and ice. It would take a prolonged period of lost time before the system would be in danger of failing to meet current state requirements, according to Mike Charbonneau, a Wake County schools spokesman.

“We have enough of a buffer to be able to cover this without dipping below the number,” added Chip Sudderth, a Durham County schools’ spokesman.

Some students will feel an impact. The Orange County school system will now operate on a normal schedule instead of a half day on Feb. 6.

Historically, North Carolina’s public schools have been required to hold at least 180 days of classes and at least 1,000 hours of instruction. Periods such as recess, lunch and exams don’t count toward the requirement.

The General Assembly changed the law in 2011 to require at least 185 days and 1,025 hours annually. For the past two school years, most of the state’s 115 school districts have gotten permission to follow the older requirements.

But starting in the 2013-14 school year, school districts will have to offer either 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction. Most school districts are expected to choose 1,025 hours to avoid the cost of operating schools for five additional days.

School officials in Johnston and Orange counties say they already schedule more than 1,025 hours of instruction and don’t need to make changes. Durham will schedule 181 days to help ensure that schools hold class for 1,025 hours.

In Wake, the state’s largest school district with 150,000 students, the situation is still under review. School administrators are surveying individual schools to see whether they will have to add more time to their instructional days this fall.

Storm aftermath

In the meantime, Triangle school districts are dealing with the aftermath of the most recent storm.

All area districts sent students home early Friday as snow coated the roadways.

With the National Weather Service issuing a freezing-rain advisory, most Triangle school districts decided Sunday to delay the opening of school Monday by two or three hours.

“Given the weather forecast last night and the impact a single degree’s difference could have on the roads, it made for the safest decision,” Sudderth said.

Temperatures had been expected to drop below freezing into the upper 20s by early Monday morning, but warmer air coming from the southwest prevented that. Police and state troopers reported no ice on road surfaces Monday morning.

School officials resisted the second-guessing calls.

Charbonneau said the predictions for freezing rain falling between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., when most Wake buses are on the road, was a major concern.

Charbonneau also said that making the decision on Sunday gave parents enough time to make arrangements for their children in the morning.

The decision to wait until 5:30 a.m. Monday to delay school drew complaints on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school system’s Facebook page from some parents who said the announcement should have been made sooner.

“We just wanted to be right,” said Jeff Nash, a spokesman for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools. “We have a lot of arm-chair generals here in the district.”

Staff writer Ron Gallagher contributed to this report.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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