Tens of thousands of Wake County students spent Monday in class instead of enjoying what until a few weeks ago would have been their first day of spring break.
Wake County’s traditional-calendar schools are open for three days this week to help make up for snow days lost in February, meaning students and staff won’t start their spring break until Thursday. On a day when attendance was down, school officials said they need to make sure that they help those in attendance cope with the loss of eight days of classes caused by last month’s wintry weather.
“The students do need to have those skills, so we need to make the most of these three days,” said Derek Burns, principal of Douglas Elementary School in Raleigh.
The “large majority” of elementary and middle school students were in class Monday, according to Tim Simmons, a Wake schools spokesman. But he said figures weren’t back yet for the high schools, where attendance was expected to be much lower.
On the staff side, school officials said more than 1,500 of Wake’s 10,000 teachers had reported they’d be out Monday.
A controversial decision by school leaders caused the intrusion into spring break for the 100,000 traditional-calendar students. So many people said they couldn’t cancel spring break plans that 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;
▪ 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.
“Family time is important, but so is school,” Burns said. “Every family needs to make their own decision.”
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.
At Douglas, a magnet school located near Raleigh’s North Hills area, Burns said he was down three classroom teachers. Burns said some teachers were able to reschedule their plans while others, such as a teacher on a missionary trip in Belize, couldn’t be here this week.
Enough students came to class Monday that it was “business as usual” at Douglas, Burns said.
In Emma Norris’ second-grade class, 15 of 19 students were present Monday. Norris, 23, a first-year teacher, said she’s doing new material but she’s also prepared to go at a slower pace if attendance drops more the rest of the week.
“We’re going to work with what we have, but it will be a great week,” she said.
On Twitter, students and staff tweeted different views of what happened Monday. School employees largely tweeted about how much learning was going on, while students tweeted that it was a waste of time because of the low attendance.
Karla Nantz, a Cary High School social studies teacher, tweeted a photo of one of her classes.
“At least I gave #QualityInstruction to the 4 students present in my #4thperiod today! @WCPSS,” she tweeted.
Hui: 919-829-4534; Twitter: @nckhui