Johnston County school leaders say they’ve shuffled the calendar all they can: Students will most likely have to go to class during spring break.
A flurry of snow and ice in February made travel treacherous and prompted the schools to cancel seven days of classes in two weeks.
After students missed four consecutive days, Feb. 17-20, the Johnston County Board of Education scheduled make-up days around spring break, when some families and teachers schedule vacations.
However, snow storms this past week canceled classes Feb. 24-26. Making up those days will likely mean holding classes during the upcoming break, scheduled for April 3-10.
“I know parents hate it, but we do make accommodations for those who have already planned trips,” said school board member Donna White of Clayton.
Historically, White said, teachers have worked out arrangements with students whose families have already scheduled vacations over spring break and have good attendance and behavior records.
The school board, which next meets on March 10, could take make-up days from the start of spring break or the end. District spokeswoman Tracey Peedin Jones said school leaders are looking at all options.
“If you look at the calendars, there’s aren’t a whole lot of options left,” she said.
The school system has scheduled make-up days for the Feb. 17-20 cancellations. The schedule is online at www.johnston.k12.nc.us.
Snow day shuffling
For students, teachers and parents alike, the unexpected days out of school have created considerable chaos on calendars, both classroom and extracurricular.
Anna Makey, a seventh-grader at Four Oaks Middle School, is supposed to play the role of evil queen Maleficent in a school production of “Sleeping Beauty,” but the weather has delayed the production. Makey has enjoyed missing school and playing in the snow, but she said all of the cancellations have started to become stressful.
“Also right now there’s soccer tryouts going on, and I missed those,” she said.
“Sleeping Beauty” has been moved to next month, but Anna’s mother, Laura Makey, said working around the last-minute change will be a challenge for many families.
“The musical has been scheduled for two totally random days in March,” she said. “So as a parent, let’s hope there’s nothing else going on that night for our kids.”
Anna Makey’s chorus teacher, Crystal Benson, said the situation has stressed her out. On top of postponing the musical, Benson is now fretting that students are missing the last days of rehearsal for their upcoming choral showcase.
“They’ve put so much in this for four or five weeks, and right here at the end, when we’re trying to get it together, it’s just not happening.”
Of course, not all parents have found the snow days stressful or inconvenient.
For Amy Keith, the school closures just meant that her 6-year-old daughter, Crissie, got to stay home from Neuse Charter School and play with her 4-year-old brother, Callin. On Tuesday, Keith and her friend, Betsy Pippin, took their kids sledding on the hill behind Neuse Little Theater in Smithfield. Having not made any travel plans for spring break, Keith said she was not particularly concerned with the timing of make-up days.
“The kids are having fun, and I guess we’ll figure it out,” she said.
White, the school board member, said she understands why school cancellations upset parents, many of whom have to juggle their work schedules to take care of their children. Because of that, she said, the district’s superintendent, Ed Croom, takes the decision to close school seriously and relies on weather forecasts, law enforcement reports and his own observations before making the call.
“It’s not done haphazardly,” White said.
Social media growth
In the Internet age, more parents and students are turning to the school district’s website and social media accounts for the latest announcements.
Jones, the Johnston schools spokeswoman, said the district’s Twitter account has gained more than 1,000 followers in the past two weeks. The district’s make-up day announcement on its website has more than 75,000 hits. Last year, 22,000 hits were the most any one page received, Jones said.
“I’m really glad our parents have been vigilant and stayed connected to our sites,” Jones said.
Parents and students have also used social media to communicate with the schools about the snow.
Before the Feb. 25 cancellation, one person tweeted, “I will pay you to cancel school.” Two hours before Johnston County schools canceled classes for Feb. 19, a student tweeted, “The governor let workers off early to get home before this snow comes again; obviously we shouldn't be in school tomorrow.”