The Winter That's Never Gonna Freakin' End™ is taking a hefty toll on the nation's school systems, with a large number of counties that have had winter weather this season using all of their allotted snow days pretty quickly. Now that it's March and the snow and ice
start to wane as spring approaches keep right on going like it's goddamn January, school boards just about everywhere have to tackle the problem of how to make up the days they've missed.
Most states mandate by law that students spend at least 180 days (or ~990 hours) in the classroom every school year, so if a district comes up even one day short, they have to make up the lost time by taking away a holiday or tacking one day onto the end of the year. That's usually not a problem if they go 3 or 4 snow days over the amount they built into the calendar (if any at all), as the first days to go are usually teacher workdays or silly holidays like President's Day or Mardi Gras (no, really).
But what happens if you're, say, Fauquier County, Virginia? This lovely little rural county in the Washington D.C. suburbs has missed 16 days this year due to snow or ice. Sixteen. Three weeks and one day. That's the reality that some counties have to face and attempt to it make-up, and parents are pissed.
Knox County, TN took away the first day of spring break to account for school lost during recent bad weather, and parent Elizabeth Goedeke ain't havin' any of it.
[...] But mom Elizabeth Goedeke doesn't think so. She says she has to cancel a family trip to Florida so her kids can be in school.
"I think it's ridiculous because the kids should be allowed to have Friday off and take their time off because they can make it up at the end of the year. It's not fair to the kids or parents when they want to go out of town," Goedeke said.
Franklin County, Mississippi even used the "vacation plans" excuse as a reason it petitioned the Mississippi State Board of Education for a waiver not to have to make up days it missed this winter due to inclement weather.
Reasons that districts asked for the waiver included high operating costs, high rates of expected absenteeism and a reluctance to extend the school year into the end of May or early June.
"Parents and students make plans for holidays and summer days," the Franklin County district wrote in its waiver request. "The attendance for makeup days that occur on holidays and summer days is usually 40 to percent less than regular scheduled days."
Virginia Beach Public Schools scheduled school on three different Saturdays to make up for time lost early on in the season. Angry parents took to the district's public Facebook page to voice their complaints for their kids having to make up the time on a weekend. Said one angry, activist-y parent:
I did not send my son. What I am teaching him is that family is just as important. Stand up for what you believe in. I have spoke to different school board members who don't agree with the decision. My hope is in releasing the attendance data that we have a wake up call. There are no more scheduled days off for our children until Spring break. Now add 3 Saturdays. My belief is that is too much for these children and their teachers who by the way have families and /or second jobs. I will get over it and continue to keep my child home, however I will continue to stand up and be my child's voice. Those who have not already there is a petition at change.org for parents who want to make changes not just complain.
Prince William County, VA — next door neighbor to Fauquier County — has missed 10 days this year, and the school board reduced elementary school recess from 15 minutes to 10 minutes to help make up the time. In anticipation of criticism from angry parents, the superintendent had to release a video on the district's website explaining why they made this decision.
The only thing that's clear is that parents on both side of the snow day issue need to take...a chill pill. (Ba dun tish.)
[Image via AP]