Fewer Wake County students and teachers will be in class this week because of the decision to cut into spring break for makeup days, but school officials say they will try to make the week as typical as possible.
More than 15 percent of Wake’s 10,000 teachers and an unknown number of students will be out when traditional-calendar schools hold classes Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. These are days that until earlier this month were the start of spring break.
The school system’s announcement it would provide “maximum flexibility” for people who couldn’t alter their spring-break plans has led to intensive planning to make sure that classes are covered this week.
Students may be taught by substitute teachers or find some classes merged with others.
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The system has worked with teachers to get across the message that instruction will continue, said Cathy Moore, deputy superintendent for school performance. “Because our teachers work in teams, they can plan for absences that may not be covered by a sub. We’re using all the information that’s available to us to plan.”
There’s skepticism, though, from at least some parents and students about how meaningful this week’s classes will be.
“Makeup days are supposed to have instructional time,” said Ashley Dibbert, 18, a senior at Leesville Road High School in North Raleigh. “It doesn’t seem like there’s much instruction that will go on.”
Dibbert said she still plans to be at Topsail Island for the week.
Wake school officials had made multiple efforts to avoid turning to spring break for makeup days.
Wake initially scheduled and then canceled using Monday as a makeup day. Then after February’s storms knocked out eight days of classes, school officials initially planned to hold makeup days on Good Friday and two Saturdays.
But on March 7, school officials announced they were scrapping the use of Good Friday and Saturdays. Instead, the district’s 100,000 traditional-calendar students will lose their first three days of scheduled spring break. School officials say it’s important to get the makeup time in earlier rather than later.
“It’s important that we make up this instructional time this quarter and that we’re focused on our instruction,” said Steven Moore, principal of Fuquay-Varina Elementary School. “It’s certainly not ideal for everyone, but we’re going to work with parents and students.”
With so many people saying they couldn’t cancel spring break plans, school officials said they would work with students and staff to make sure they’re not penalized. Actions include:
▪ Allowing students who are absent on makeup days to complete missed school work for full credit;
▪ Telling principals that students will not suffer any impact on grades or academic credit solely as a result of absences on makeup days, provided the students complete the missed assignments in a timely manner;
▪ Not counting makeup day absences in determining whether high school seniors are exempt from non-state exams. Seniors can get exemptions from some exams depending on their grades and attendance for a class.
“I can confirm a great sense of relief among the seniors,” said Brian Pittman, principal of Holly Springs High School.
On the staff level, school employees were told to talk with their principals if they couldn’t come in this week. Larry Nilles, president of Wake NCAE, which represents the district’s school employees, said he hasn’t heard any complaints in the past week.
“A lot of work is being done to make this as workable as possible,” he said. “By and large, it’s been successful.”
Wake is also covering the $50 per day fee that absent teachers are typically required to pay to help offset the cost of hiring a substitute.
As of Friday afternoon, school officials said more than 1,500 teachers – some of whom don’t need a sub because they aren’t classroom teachers – have reported they’ll be out Monday. That’s compared to 700 teachers on Thursday, which school officials said is high for a normal day.
The number of absences varies by school.
At Fuquay-Varina Elementary, Moore said five of his 33 teachers will be out, but they’ll be replaced by substitutes who regularly work at the school. He said the instruction this week will remain “focused and strong.”
At the much larger Holly Springs High, Pittman said 19 teachers will be out, but 100 will be still working this week.
Pittman said he’s told his teachers to plan for business as usual, but the major uncertainty is how many students will show up.
“We know we’ve got to be ready and prepared for almost 2,400 of our kids to walk through the door Monday,” he said. “Whoever shows up, shows up. If a significant number don’t show up, then those who do will have some special learning experiences and more individualized attention than normal.”
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