No weather make-up days are planned for the current school year, Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson said Thursday night.
The question of make-up days was not discussed by Board of Education members during their first meeting of 2018. But asked after the meeting, Wilson said he had talked to members individually and had made a decision.
“We really were going to have a challenge because people had not planned for these make-up days,” he said. “So after the feedback and the conversations we’ve had, I’m going to stay with the decision that we’re not going to make up the student days.”
School was cancelled most recently for students Jan. 4 and 5 because of exceptional cold and rare snow. Teachers missed an additional day, Jan. 3, when they would have returned before students.
Tropical Storm Irma, elsewhere a deadly hurricane, had prompted the closing of the Bulloch County Schools on Sept. 8, 11 and 12.
Five missed days
So the schools are down five class days, not counting Aug. 21, the solar eclipse day the school system made optional. More than half of students were out with their parents’ permission that day.
“We’ve had many unexpected things hit us this year, and it’s not that we don’t value the student instructional days, but what we do want to make sure is happening is that it’s quality time, and we don’t want to put people through a process of just going through the motions,” Wilson said.
So, instead of trying “to force the days in” during breaks or planning days, he said, the school system leadership is counting on teachers to make sure students get the instructional time they need.
“And have faith and confidence in them that that will happen,” Wilson said. “We want to respect everybody’s time, and we want to make sure that our kids are getting quality instruction.”
Under the 2017-18 calendar adopted by the Board of Education last January, the school system started the school year with 176 class days planned, not the traditional 180.
More days were instead devoted to teacher professional development and group planning. Administrators said this would prevent teachers from being pulled from classrooms for these purposes during instructional days. Because most teachers have 190-day contracts, the school system cannot add to their work days beyond that.
Exempt from 180
So, after the five weather-day cancellations, the school system is down to 171 student days in the current year. But since Bulloch County has a Strategic Waivers School System under a 2016 contract with the Georgia State Board of Education, the district is exempt from some state requirements, including the minimum number of class days.
Otherwise, a state regulation would prescribe a 180-day school year for students and allow the local board to cancel up to four days for storms and other emergencies. The state sometimes also cancels school days for declared emergencies.
“Keep in mind, we are no longer tied to that 180,” said Hayley Greene, Bulloch County Schools public relations specialist. “The number of instructional days in a school system’s calendar is a local decision based on our strategic waivers contract.”
Meanwhile, the calendar committee, of teachers, principals and central office staff, has proposed school calendars for the next two school years with four potential make-up days built into each year.
This is being done as a courtesy to let parents know when the make-up days could occur, whether or not any would ever be used, Greene said.
By drafting calendar options for both 2018-19 and 2019-20, the committee proposes adopting a calendar for a second year in advance to give parents and community organizations more time to plan.
Chief Financial Officer Troy Brown delivered a report Thursday on a December online survey of school system employees. Roughly 70 percent of the 766 employees who responded preferred “Option 1” for both years. This option keeps Aug. 1 as the first day of school in both 2018 and 2019 and retains a five-day break corresponding with the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair each October.
Option 2 would start school five or six days later in August and shorten the October break to three days.
In Thursday’s original agenda, the county school board was slated to vote on the two-year calendar. But at Wilson’s suggestion, the board amended the agenda so that the calendar choice was “placed on the table” for action at a later meeting.
“That being a calendar that affects the community at large, I just felt it was appropriate, because there’s no hurry on our part, that we at least place it on the table for consideration,” he said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.