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Making up is hard to do

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Carroll School Board debates options on making up snow days.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — The discussion of making up each missed snow day got heated at the Carroll County School Board.
At issue was whether educators should add all the missed days back into the calendar, plus extend the length of the school day for a month, so instructional time for the students would not take a bigger hit.
A calendar committee looked into it and Assistant Superintendent Strader Blankenship presented the board with ideas to get those 18 school days back.
• Option 1 involved using all make-up days and ending the school year on May 31.
• Option 2 would turn the April 25 day off at Easter into a school day, as well as set senior graduation on May 28.
• Option 3 would add 40 minutes to each day starting the week of March 21, after daylight savings begins. This would allow the schools to make up five missed days.
"We would only go four weeks with the extended day, and then we would be making up one for one — every day we missed would be made up," Blankenship said.
• Option 4 involved falling back on the state-required minimum of 990 hours of instruction after all other options have been exhausted.
Chairman Franklin Jett asked how extending the day would work.
That will be left of school principals to decide, Blankenship said.
As Carroll fits six hours of instruction into a day — 30 minutes more than the state requires — would the school division have enough banked time to meet the 990 hour mark, School Board Member Reggie Gardner asked.
He also wondered — if the school board decided to declare May 27 the last day of the year — how many additional days the division could miss and still meet the state requirement.
Planning to use all of the banked time could bring school to an end by May 17, if no more school days were missed. But, theoretically, Blankenship added that the division could miss 18 more days before winter ends.
School Board Member Robert Utz thought that extending the length of the school day would cause confusion.
"We've got students who get to school late now as it is," he said. "That's going to make that many more late."
Since the extended days weren't planned until later in March anyway, Jett suggested that the school board consider that part of the plan at the next meeting.
School Board Member Harold Golding said he wanted to stick to what the committee recommended. "We have knowledgeable people out there who worked on this schedule," he said. "I think they came up with a pretty good plan."
He didn't think the school board should try to find a way to "cheat" on instructional hours.
But School Board Member Phillip Berrier asked what the schools would gain by adding 40 minutes to the day.
Golding said concerned parents have told him they don't want to see their children's quality of instruction hurt.
Banked time will also get reduced with each new day missed and each late start to school, Golding pointed out.
"What the committee was charged with was to recommend a plan that one-for-one days could be made up — and that's what they did," Schools Superintendent Greg Smith told the board.
But Berrier didn't see the value of going 20 long days to make up two missed. "My concern is that the buses are running now very early, before seven o'clock," he said. "That's a long day for five- and six-year-olds."
Could the school board use Saturday school, Golding wondered.
The committee dispensed with the ideas of Saturday school and continuing the school year into June, Blankenship explained.
Saturday school typically has bad attendance, which could mess up the state standardized testing results, offered Mark Burnette, director of secondary education.
Utz made a motion to accept the first two recommendations of the committee and leave the question of extended days until next month.
Nobody seconded the motion, though, and Jett declared it dead.
Gardner then made a motion to end school on May 27 with graduation on May 28.
When it came to a vote, Golding and Jett voted no, but the motion passed with support from Berrier, Gardner and Utz.

2011-12 Calendar Drafted
Later in the meeting, Blankenship reported on the draft for the 2011-2012 school year calendar.
Teachers would report to work Aug. 4 and students would start Aug. 10.
"First of all, let me say very quickly we will not be going to school on Election Day," Blankenship said." Why? Just because we never have before and last year was not fun — it worked well [but it was] hard to make it work."
The first semester would end on Dec. 20, with the possibility of using Dec. 21-22 as make-up days.
The last day of school would fall on May 11, 2012.
As always, the calendar is subject to change.
"I think most people have figured out this is a plan," Blankenship said. "By the time the snow starts flying, it's out the window anyway."