Wake schools seek best answer on snow days

Sometimes, the wisdom of decisions made by a governing body and the officials who implement those decisions is measured by a willingness to admit a mistake and correct it.

That’s not often seen in bureaucracies, where the tendency is to stubbornly stand behind a choice once it’s made and dig in.

So the Wake County school board and school officials are due credit for digging themselves out of an initial call on how to make up school days lost due to inclement weather.

The call first was to make up three days on Good Friday and two Saturdays. Then came a Vesuvian eruption from a variety of corners.

There were those of the “faith community” who strongly resisted the idea of schools called in on Good Friday. Their objections were understandable.

And then there were those parents who noted that family plans would be interrupted, in some cases at great expense, should schools be convened on Saturdays.

For the school board and administrators, this was a doozie of a problem.

The days must be made up to meet state requirements, and that requirement, frankly, is fair enough. There are 1,025 hours of instruction required of North Carolina school districts that don’t have 185 days of classes. Wake thus had to make up seven snow days.

The county was going to make up four days by changing early release days to full days and to use up the extra hours that had been built into the schedule.

But three days had to be found somewhere, and the school board and officials found them on Good Friday and two Saturdays.

That was the preference as opposed to adding days to the end of the year, adding 20 minutes to the day or slicing off some time from spring break.

From the staff’s standpoint, it made sense. And for many parents, who’ve planned spring break vacations, some of them involving trips to places like Disney World (why anyone would want to join the legions there on spring break is...well, never mind), saving spring break was a really good idea.

But that view was hardly unanimous, as other parents made clear to school board members and staff. In fact, “made clear” is putting it mildly. A deluge of objections were heard.

And so, this past weekend, school officials reversed course. They’ll get the three days from spring break. Students on the traditional calendar, and there are 100,000 of them, will have classes during break, on March 23-25. Year-round students will indeed have Saturday classes on May 16 and May 30, but students on that schedule have had Saturday makeup classes before.

Obviously, some parents with set-in-stone spring break plans likely will take their kids out of school anyway, and figure a way to deal with the consequences through their individual principals.

Superintendent Jim Merrill recently made a good case for a request from Wake school officials to state lawmakers to have some independent say-so over the county calendar, and one of the points he made is that if Wake could, for example, start school earlier in the year it then would be easier to make up snow days, rare though they are.

But the real significance here is that school officials responded to parents’ concerns and did so quickly, and were not afraid to change their minds. For that, parents should express their appreciation.