Education

Wake schools drop Good Friday, Saturday makeup plan

Hunter Kuehn, right, works with his classmates from Sanderson High School to build a luge in the cul de sac on Inlet Place in North Raleigh on Jan 29. Kuehn and six other friends worked through the day, shoveling and packing snow, spraying it a mist of water and waiting for temperatures to drop to produce a fast sliding surface.
Hunter Kuehn, right, works with his classmates from Sanderson High School to build a luge in the cul de sac on Inlet Place in North Raleigh on Jan 29. Kuehn and six other friends worked through the day, shoveling and packing snow, spraying it a mist of water and waiting for temperatures to drop to produce a fast sliding surface. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Wake County school officials reversed course Saturday, announcing they’ll cut into spring break rather than use their previous plan of requiring all 155,000 students to have makeup days on Good Friday and two Saturdays.

The state’s largest school district may have just traded one group of angry people for another. Instead of previous complaints about Wake forcing people to choose between school and their faith, work and extracurricular schedules, people on Saturday objected to losing part of spring break.

Some also accused Wake of trying to hide the change by announcing it on a Saturday. But school officials said they were trying to get the news of the change out as soon as they could.

“@WCPSS changing the make up days and posting quietly in Saturday?!” tweeted Mike Charbonneau, a Wake parent and former schools spokesman. “This is why everyone thinks there is no more transparency or credibility.”

Wake’s 100,000 traditional-calendar students will now have classes on March 23-25, which would have been the first three days of their spring break. The only students who will have Saturday makeup days, on May 16 and May 30, are year-round students. Those students are used to Saturday makeup classes.

Wake’s other calendars are also seeing days tacked on to their schedules. Go to bit.ly/1EAxOs4 to view the makeup days for each calendar.

School board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said she trusts parents will make the best decisions for their families about spring break.

“We recognize many parents make plans for spring break,” Kushner said in a district news release. “But we also appreciate many more children will be right here at home and could take advantage of the only available stretch of quality instructional time left on this year’s calendar.”

Wake is trying to make up seven snow days to stay above the 1,025 hours of instruction required annually of North Carolina school districts that don’t have 185 days of classes. Wake is making up the first four days by changing early release days to full days and taking advantage of the more than 1,025 hours that had been built into school schedules.

Despite those measures, school administrators said that they had to make up the days lost on Feb. 25-27.

On Tuesday, the school board backed a recommendation from staff to make up those three snow days by having classes on Good Friday, a Saturday in April and a Saturday in May. School administrators told the board that their plan would be better for students than extending the end of the school year, adding 20 minutes to the day or cutting into spring break.

Tuesday’s announcement came with a tweet from the school system – which has since been deleted – that “spring break is safe!”

While some people had thanked Wake for saving spring break, others complained that the plan was insensitive to Christian and Jewish students. People also said that Saturday classes conflicted with plans already scheduled for those days.

In Wake’s new press release, school officials said the use of Good Friday and Saturdays “revealed numerous conflicts that severely compromised the goal of quality classroom time.”

“Our students have lost a huge amount of time in the past month and there just aren’t any good options left for recovering that much instruction,” said Superintendent Jim Merrill in a written statement.

“We will provide the best instruction we can under the circumstances, and we expect many of our students will take advantage of that,” Merrill said. “It’s a tough situation for everyone – teachers, parents and students – and we are trying to make the best of it.”

Lisa Luten, a Wake schools spokeswoman, said that the district had held off on announcing the new makeup plan Friday because officials wanted to see whether the day’s two-hour delay would turn into a cancellation. She said the district’s leadership team met Friday to discuss makeup options and sought feedback from principals overnight before meeting again Saturday morning and agreeing on the new plan.

Although some people tweeted their thanks for changing the plan, many more vented their anger Saturday. Some complained about the cost of changing travel plans. Others said it will discourage high school seniors because if they miss their spring-break makeup days, they won’t be eligible to skip some final exams.

“@WCPSS can you please explain to me which universe you were in when you thought that taking half of spring break away would make sense?” tweeted Luke Eastman, a student at Cary High School.

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

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