Wake County schools facing hard calls on makeup days

khui@newsobserver.comFebruary 12, 2014 

  • Wake County’s snow makeup days

    Wake County students face making up six days canceled because of the bad weather. Four makeup days have been announced so far.

    • Traditional-calendar students have classes on Feb. 17, March 28, April 21 and June 11.

    • Year-round students, who had their first makeup day on Feb. 8, also have classes on Feb. 15, April 26 and May 3.

    • Modified-calendar students will attend school on Feb. 17, March 10, March 11 and April 21.

    • Early college and single-sex leadership academy students will make up the days on Feb. 17, April 21, May 29 and May 30.

The timing of this week’s snow storm was about as bad as it could get for the Wake County school system and its 18,000 employees, 153,000 students and their parents.

The closing of school on Wednesday, Thursday and potentially Friday means finding more time to make up days on top of the four snow days from January. The timing of the storm is also putting into jeopardy the previously planned makeup days for Saturday for year-round students and Monday for the rest of Wake’s students.

The snowy weather has canceled schools throughout the Triangle, both in January and this week. But Wake has more days to make up than most, after it canceled school ahead of the January storm while other districts held classes.

As for when Wake will make up this week’s days, “We just can’t say yet,” said Stella Shelton, the interim chief of communications.

Under state law, school districts are required to have either 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction per year. It replaces an old long-standing requirement that school systems have both 180 days and 1,000 hours of instruction.

Wake, like most North Carolina school systems, opted to go with 1,025 hours. Now North Carolina’s largest school district must replace at least six days worth of instructional time.

Last month’s snow storm caused Wake to cut into spring break for traditional-calendar and modified-calendar students and tack on Saturday classes for year-round students. Wake also extended the end of the school year by one day rather than take another day from spring break for traditional-calendar schools, which educate the majority of Wake’s students.

But this week’s storm could result in some painful choices, including:

• Cutting further into spring break, a time when some families have already made vacation plans and paid for things such as airplane tickets.

• Extending the end of the school year for traditional-calendar schools by two more days to June 13, which would come after high school graduations and final exams. The state’s revised calendar law only lets districts run to the Friday closest to June 11.

• Adding more Saturday classes for year-round students, which would increase the number of six-day school weeks.

• Extending the length of the school day, which could impact childcare and family plans.

Another possibility could be seeing if Wake has enough hours above 1,025 scheduled to forgive some of the lost time. School officials were not immediately able to say Wednesday how much flexibility the district has on the time requirement.

To avoid adding more makeup days, some area school systems, including Durham and Orange, opted to hold classes Wednesday and send students home early. But Shelton said Wake made the call Tuesday night to close school because of forecasts that snow would fall by noon, which wouldn‘t give it enough time to get all the students bused home.

Some parents had questioned the call, especially after Wake closed school Jan. 28, only to have the snow not arrive until late afternoon. But as the snow rapidly began falling at midday Wednesday, several appreciative parents and students tweeted their thanks for Wake’s decision.

“So sorry for the bad thoughts that went through my head this morning,” one person tweeted on Wake’s Twitter account. “Good call! Thanks for keeping our kids and staff safe!”

Hui: 919-829-4534

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