Wake County schools’ Good Friday, Saturday makeup plan draws protests

Nina Woomer-Deters, 2, catches snow on her tongue outside her home in Raleigh on Feb 24.
Nina Woomer-Deters, 2, catches snow on her tongue outside her home in Raleigh on Feb 24.

Wake County’s plan to have students attend makeup days on Good Friday and two Saturdays has drawn angry backlash from parents, students, teachers and community members.

Some critics contend that having classes on Good Friday – on April 3 this year – unfairly forces Christians to choose between school and their faith. Other critics say holding classes on Saturdays infringes on family, work and other commitments.

Sally Norton, a North Raleigh parent of three students, is among those who say school leaders should have students make up last week’s three snow days by using preplanned workdays during March spring break and at the end of the school year in June. She said it’s absurd to require all students to go to school on Saturdays.

“I know that if I book a March vacation, I know there’s a chance I might miss a vacation day because it’s a weather makeup day,” Norton said. “Or if I book something in June right after the end of the school year, I know something can happen. But never in a million years did it occur to me that they’d use Saturdays for traditional-calendar students.”

Historically, Wake has only used Saturday half-days to make up time for year-round schools. District officials plan to make the two Saturdays full days for all students.

On Tuesday, the school board backed a recommendation from staff to make up last week’s three snow days by having classes on Good Friday, a Saturday in April and a Saturday in May. School officials say they will announce soon which two Saturdays will be used.

School administrators told the board that their plan would be better educationally for students than extending the end of the school year, adding 20 minutes to the day or cutting into spring break.

“We’ve lost a ton of instructional hours,” Superintendent Jim Merrill told the board. “When can we get them back for the greatest return?”

Wake’s announcement produced a wave of online comments, many critical, on the district’s social media pages.

Several people objected to holding school on Good Friday, which Christians observe as the day Jesus died on the cross.

“Good Friday is a sacred religious observance for my family,” tweeted Farrah Baynes. “My children will not be in attendance.”

School officials have replied that students can get an excused absence for religious observance.

Several students have tweeted that Saturday classes would conflict with work, athletic and other extracurricular activities.

“@WCPSS there’s too many already in place important Saturday events for schools, you can’t screw up schedules like that,” tweeted Katy Holt, a high school student.

Some teachers have also vented their opposition to the makeup plan.

“@WCPSS get it together,” tweeted Mary Katherine Baker, a science teacher at Athens Drive High School in Raleigh. “You’re 4 weeks early for April fool’s. Your HS students work on Saturdays and many of your teachers do too!”

School leaders have said they recognize that the plan will create conflicts for families. But they said it’s the best option to ensure students make up the lost instructional time before testing takes place in May and June.

“Whatever days we choose, we run the risk of high absenteeism,” school board Vice Chairman Tom Benton said Tuesday. “But at least if students and parents understand up front that a Saturday is designed to be a test prep day, they can make realistic decisions about the value of that day.”

Hui: 919-829-4534; Twitter: @nckhui