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Education on ice: Missed days pile up

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Schools must make up all of the first five days missed and half of every day missed after that.

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With a brief thaw this past weekend, students in Carroll and Galax returned to school on Monday, while Grayson schools remained closed.

Winter snowstorms that began Dec. 18 and the two months of sub-freezing temperatures that followed have kept thousands of students and hundreds of teachers home.

As a result, school systems are having to redraw their calendars for the remaining year.

The Grayson County School Board will have some decisions to make in the coming weeks on how students there will make up more than two dozen days of school.

Chad Newman, the school system’s director of personnel, told The Gazette that as of Monday, students had missed 25 days, while students at Mount Rogers Combined have missed 28.

(As of press time, no decision had been made whether classes would be held Tuesday.)

Monday marked day number 16 in a row that students have missed since back-to-back storms hit the area earlier this month.

Students have attended school only 12 times since the Christmas break and, as of Monday, had yet to reach the classroom in the month of February.

Poor road conditions continue to hamper the school system’s ability to pick up the nearly 1,600 students who rely on bus transportation to get to and from school.

When asked what the plans are to make up the lost days, Newman simply said it will depend on the action taken by the school board.

The Code of Virginia requires a school system to make up the first five days of school missed for inclement weather, but then only requires one day for each two missed after that.

Originally, students were expected to complete the school year on May 12, but no new final date has been set.

When asked what was the last day students could possibly go, Newman said it has not yet been determined.

Newman added that Saturday school is not being considered at this time.

The big question for the school system now is when will the roads be safe enough to drive on. Some snow and ice melted this weekend when temperatures rose to around 50, but more cold weather and some snow were predicted for this week.

Grayson Supervisor Joe Vaughan called the road conditions some of the worst he had ever seen. Vaughan drives a bus for the school system and noted that he couldn’t imagine taking his personal vehicle — let alone a bus full of children — on some of the roads in the county.

The school board could talk about options at its next regular meeting March 8 at 6 p.m.

CARROLL COUNTY

Winter-related closures and delays means the end of the fourth grading period will be pushed back.

While Carroll Superintendent Greg Smith suggested at the school board's Feb. 9 meeting that the fourth grading period be pushed back to Feb. 26, the revision to the schools calendar had to be changed again after more winter weather-related closures.

Carroll students finally returned to school Monday after missing a total of 17 days.

By the old 2009-2010 calendar, the grading period was to end Feb. 12, but now it will end March 5.

On that date, schools will close for students at 1 p.m.

Report cards will be issued March 16 instead of Feb. 23, according to the revised calendar.

April 6 will be a school day, instead of a teacher workday. The old schedule held that April 6 could be a make-up day, if needed.

The fifth grading period will end April 16. Also on April 16, students will be sent home at 1 p.m. and teachers will remain until 3:30 p.m.

Report cards will come out April 27. The sixth grading period and second semester will end May 28.

May 31 and June 1 will be teacher work days and June 2 will be a flexible teacher workday, according to the revised schedule.

Originally, the calendar called for the second semester to end May 14, with make-up days May 17-28.

School days will not go past that date. "As you know, this recommendation is a tentative change," Smith said. "I would further recommend that Friday, May the 28th, be our last possible day for the 2009-2010 school year."

At the Feb. 9 meeting, Smith said that if Carroll missed more days — which it did —  the division would still comply with the number of hours required by the Virginia Standards of Quality.

Smith said he could recommend in the future if graduation should take place on May 29.

"We have a startup day for the 2010-11 school year, which is on Aug. 9," Smith said. "So if we exceeded Friday May the 28th, we would have a very short summer."

The school board approved the revised school calendar unanimously.

GALAX

Though Galax students missed fewer days than those in the county — 12 — the city school board had to make changes to its 2009-2010 school calendar, as well.

Several dates that schools were to close for students have become regular school days. March 8 and 9; April 5, 6 and 26; June 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 are now days that students are expected to be in class.

Schools will be closed on April 2 for spring break.

These changes only address the dates that schools were closed due to bad weather through Feb. 5. The school system missed two more days after that.

Recommendations regarding those two days will be brought to the school board at its March 8 meeting.