School board agrees on make-up days

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Two winter storms left the Rowan-Salisbury School System with four school days and one teacher workday to make up so far this year.
Students will now have to attend class March 28 and April 18. Feb. 17 was already used as a make-up day and one day’s absence was forgiven.
“This has probably been one of the most complex years I’ve seen because of the number of days,” said Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody. “There’s not a really good, clear cut way to make up days.”
Students missed school Jan. 29 and 30, as well as Feb. 12 through 14.
Administrators initially slated Feb. 14 and 17 as make-up days for the January absences, but the second winter storm caused class to be canceled on that first make-up day.
Students completed the make-up day scheduled for Feb. 17, but administrators were left having to reschedule the make-up day scheduled for Feb. 14, as well as the Wednesday and Thursday missed.
A panel of Rowan-Salisbury staff and administrators met with Dr. Moody last week to try to schedule make-up days in the most convenient and academically advantageous way possible.
The group worked to avoid cutting into spring break, class on Memorial Day and class on Saturdays.
Students and parents have made it incredibly clear that they want spring break protected, said Colby Cochran, who builds the school system’s academic calendar each year.
Historically, make-up days scheduled during one of those three times have significantly lower attendance.
Cochran said the panel “tried to learn from past experiences.”
The class day that was originally scheduled for Jan. 29, and then was rescheduled to Feb. 14 was forgiven for students. Ten-month staff will make up the day on Monday, June 16.
The remaining two days were rescheduled for March 28 and April 18. March 28 was originally a workday and April 18 was originally a holiday for Good Friday.
Teachers will make up the workdays that were converted to class days on the last two days of spring break, April 24 and 25.
The reason the school system was able to forgive one of the class days is that the state of North Carolina mandates that each school district have 185 days or 1,025 hours of instructional time each year. The Rowan-Salisbury School System opted for the instructional hours rather than the number of days. There were 180 days scheduled for this academic year.
“Instructional hours are our unit of measurement,” Cochran said.
Rowan-Salisbury elementary schools, which have the shortest school day in the system, have 1,050 instructional hours scheduled for the 2013-14 academic year.
After 13 1/2 hours in delayed starts and early dismissals were subtracted from that total, the panel found they had 11 1/2 excess hours. They decided that if the school system didn’t miss any more days, they would be able to forgive one day.
Cochran said the school system could handle two more delays before having to make up instructional hours.
Cochran explained the school system’s options if the county receives more inclement weather. The school board could decide to extend the school year or add Saturday classes.
“This year, our students actually graduate on the last day of school,” Moody said, but added that the school board needed to revisit the graduation schedule next year.
Moody also suggested that five to 10 minutes be added to each school day to give more flexibility in the future.
She said that if more than 10 minutes were added to the school day, there would be issues with overtime, but five or 10 minutes would add instructional time to each day, as well as provide more options in the case of inclement weather closures.
Cochran said that if Rowan-Salisbury schools must meet on a Saturday, they would have a full day of class, rather than a partial day, as in years past, to gain more instructional hours. In addition, Saturday classes would cause a larger financial impact, adding overtime to many employees’ schedules.
One of the biggest problems stemming from the new schedule is that hourly employees may not get paid for one day this month.
Moody allowed teachers to work from home during some of the snow days, but hourly employees were unable to do the same thing.
“We didn’t have any other options,” Moody said, adding that she believes her choice was best for teaching and learning.
Tara Trexler, Rowan-Salisbury chief financial officer, clarified that hourly employees would eventually be able to make up that day; it just wouldn’t be right now.
“It was just an unusual year,” Moody said. “We tried to make lemonade out of lemons.”

In other news, at the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education meeting Monday:
• The board met with attorneys Don Sayers and Richard Schwartz during closed session. They had nothing to report when they came out. Chairman of the Board of Education Dr. Richard Miller said the board prepared for their joint meeting with county commissioners Thursday and instructed Schwartz on what their position should be in relation to the commissioner’s last offer.
• Trexler updated the board on the process of selecting an auditor. The board chose the least expensive bid, from Rives & Associates, LLP.
• Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum Dr. Julie Morrow and Director of Elementary Education Alesia Burnette updated the board on the district’s literacy team and asked the board to approve a letter asking for Reading 3D to also be considered for a good cause exemption for third graders.
•The subcommittee on strategic planning updated the board on their progress. They have created the vision statement, “Committed to extraordinary learning every day,” for the school system. They plan to hold a public forum in early May to present the district’s new strategic plan to the community.
• Rowan-Salisbury School System is a finalist for the League of Invention and will find out if they have been selected on March 1.
• The board approved a field trip for the WRSS student news team to present at a National School Public Relations Association’s conference in Baltimore in July.
• The board honored staff and students for exemplary achievements.