After missing six days due to weather, the Commerce and Jackson County school systems are trying to figure out how — or whether — to make up the lost instructional time.
Commerce administrators will meet Friday to discuss the options, superintendent Joy Tolbert reports. Meanwhile, Jackson County has announced that it will add 20 minutes to every school day from Feb. 24 to May 9 to recover lost hours.
But superintendents all across the state are also waiting to see whether Gov. Nathan Deal or the Department of Education will allow systems to waive school days lost when Deal declared “state of emergency” status.
“Hopefully, we will have some guidance by Friday,” Tolbert said Monday morning.
Meanwhile, after conducting a parental survey via Facebook, the Jackson County system announced the school day extensions, but officials also indicated that the plan could change if any or all of the lost days are waived.
“The worst-case scenario, if they do not waive the days, the options we’ll look at are reducing spring break, extending the school days a certain number of minutes for the remainder of the year or attending school on Saturdays,” Tolbert said. “None of those options appeal to me.”
Commerce students missed the day early in January when the temperature fell to six degrees, and missed another on Jan. 29 due to the weather system that paralyzed Atlanta. Last week, they missed Tuesday through Friday. Each of the last five days missed occurred under the state of emergency declaration.
As of Monday, Tolbert said school superintendents across the sate expect some or all of the “emergency” days to be waived.
Systems could make up all of the lost days by cancelling spring break, but educators worry about disrupting families’ long-held plans and the low attendance during that week if school is held.
“So many people make plans as soon as the calendar is set,” Tolbert said. “We do our best to work with teachers, students and parents, but there is not a lot you can do with Mother Nature.”
Commerce students will make up the first of the six lost days this Friday, which had been scheduled as a student holiday. If the other five days are waived by Deal or the Department of Education, it’s possible Commerce students could wind up attending just 169 instructional days during the school year. The “normal” Georgia school year is 180 instructional days, but Commerce previously lopped six off of that due to budget concerns. Most Georgia school districts also reduced their calendars for budgetary reasons.
“The lost days are a concern,” Tolbert admitted. She reported that last week when it was apparent schools would be closed for several days, she asked the system principals to talk with their teachers, get a feel for their concerns, and to use the time off to look at the materials that are essential with the idea of maximizing whatever instructional time remains before school ends in May.
“I just hope it’s finished,” said Tolbert of the winter school closings. “I hope it’s not one of these things where we have a return visit in March. I hope we’ve seen the worst of it.”