Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

March 4, 2014

Snow days to be made up

By Heather Mullinix
Assistant editor

CROSSVILLE — Monday's unscheduled day off from school will cost Cumberland County teachers and students one of their spring break days, following a vote of the Cumberland County Board of Education Thursday on a plan to make up days missed for inclement weather.

The BOE approved using previously scheduled staff development days March 14, April 21 and May 21 as regular instruction days. Additional days would be made up using spring break, scheduled April 14-18. Monday's snow day will be made up April 14, and additional days advancing through the week from Monday through Friday of that week.

"What about people who have made plans for those days, like doctor's appointments," asked Gordon Davis, 5th District representative. "We need to think about extending the school year. People plan on those breaks to do things."

Director of Schools Donald Andrews said, "That was discussed. But we feel, academically, that would be a disaster. That would be after testing. If they have things planned they can't change, we'll work with them on that, but we feel the students would be better served making up the days during that time prior to testing."

Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program testing will be May 2-9 and End Of Course tests are scheduled May 1-7.

Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, noted that the calendar states how days missed in excess of the 10 banked snow days are to be made up. It states first the three staff development days will be used. If early enough in the year, Martin Luther King Day and President's Day can be used, but Blalock noted those holidays had passed. Spring break will be used for the remainder of the days, according to the calendar.

He moved to approve the calendar changes, supported by Richard Janeway, 2nd District representative.

Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative, said, "People who work, and most of them do, have to pick a time at a certain date for a vacation. I've had parents contact me that they've had to make arrangements because of the week of the break. Can I tell them principals will work with them on travel reservations that can't be changed?"

Andrews said, "They're going to work with them."

The motion passed with Brewer and Davis voting no. David Bowman, 7th District representative, was  not present.

Andrews also presented possible changes to the 2014-'15 school calendar to change where staff development days are scheduled.

"Many felt that, where those are, that is not really meeting the need of the schools for that year," Andrews said, noting staff development was important for faculty in working together in professional learning communities, implementing changes in classrooms and collaborating on instructional strategies.

"We need to be looking after our teachers," Andrews said. "Staff development is more important now than ever."

The 2014-'15 school calendar has been adopted by the board for the upcoming school year, but Andrews said the board could consider keeping it as is, or adopting one of two options he presented.

The first option would schedule staff development days Sept. 19, Jan. 6 and May 21. Option two would make use of abbreviated days Aug. 29, Sept. 26, Nov. 25 and March 13. Students would be dismissed at 11:20 a.m. and teachers would stay and work the remainder of the day on staff development.

Andrews said he was not looking for action on those options at the board meeting, but asked to be allowed to post the two options to the school system website, ccschools.k12tn.net, for a comment period and return at the March 27 meeting for possible action by the board. Public comments can be entered through the website.

Blalock questioned using abbreviated days for days that are not called off due to inclement weather. He asked administrators to verify that was permissible under state law.

Josh Stone, 4th District representative, said he did not think the half days would be a good use of fiscal resources, due to running buses and serving lunch for a half day of school.

Davis added, "If the kids know they're getting out early, you're not going to get much out of them."

Janeway said he had been contacted by many constituents who would like to see the school system let students out for Veterans Day each year in recognition of the many service men and women living in the community.