“We’re going to have a called meeting on Monday [Feb. 24] at 5 o’clock for the school board to consider amending the student calendar and our intention would be to change the Friday, March 14, in service day to a student day, to establish Saturday, March 15, as a full school day and Saturday, March 22, [as a full school day], ...” Cartersville Superintendent Howard Hinesley said.
He said the recommendation to make up the days was developed after speaking with principals and teachers who said it would be necessary to make up the days.
“We do have the option to forgive all seven days, but it’s just too many days to miss academically,” Hinesley said. “...There’s no good answer to this. This avoids spring break, it does give us an opportunity to provide additional instructional time prior to statewide testing and we’re going to make every effort for those school-sponsored activities ... to reschedule those if we can. If we can’t, we’ll go ahead and accommodate those with the understanding that anyone who is participating needs to be academically in good standing in order to participate.”
Hinesley said other options were considered before developing the recommendation to hold classes on Saturdays.
“You really have four options: one is to ask the board to forgive all the days [and] we don’t think that’s reasonable with all the days we’ve missed, we really believe we need to make up at least three of them and they need to be with a strong academic effort; second, you could go [to school] on spring break, but we believe that would provide more hardship to people than it would be to go Saturdays; three, you can add time to the day, but that doesn’t do anything near the academic help as if you’re going a full day — if you’re adding an hour a day, that’s just a small amount per period and that doesn’t really get it; and then four, you could add the time to the end of the school year, which doesn’t really make any sense because you’ve already completed your statewide assessments and there would tend to be less need for the quality of instruction you would need when you’re getting ready for the [Criterion Referenced Competency Tests].
He said the Saturdays will be treated exactly like standard school days, which will include school bus transportation.
“In addition, the primary school will be checking to see if there’s any interest in having after-school care — we are willing to do that as well,” Hinesley said.
Bartow County Superintendent John Harper said because school was not in session this week due to winter break, he will meet with principals next week to discuss make up days and will then present a recommendation to the school board.
The State Board of Education this week approved two resolutions recommended by State School Superintendent John Barge to give school districts flexibility. One resolution was to give flexibility to school districts to decide whether to make up school days when they were closed due to inclement weather. The other resolution removes the class size requirements due to continued budget shortfalls for districts.
Weather and School Days Resolution
According to a press release from the Georgia Department of Education, “State law – O.C.G.A. § 20-2-168(c)(2) – authorizes the State Board of Education to empower local boards of education to depart from the strict interpretation of the terms ‘school year’ and ‘school day,’ when the Governor proclaims a state of emergency or when there is an emergency that causes the continued operation of public schools to be impractical or impossible. Many school districts throughout the state had to close due to inclement weather the weeks of January 27-31 and February 10-14.”
Barge said in the release, “The approval of this resolution will allow local school districts the flexibility to determine if school days missed due to inclement weather will be made up,” Barge said in a press release. “Each district has a unique set of challenges with regard to restoring the days missed so we wanted to ensure they had the means to do whatever was best for them.”
Class Size Resolution
According to the release, “Local school districts continue to experience financial hardships. The results may mean that a local board of education will not be able to comply with class size maximum requirements. State law – O.C.G.A. § 20-2-244 (h) – authorizes the State Board of Education to allow local school systems to exceed regulatory class size maximums in the event of ‘financial exigency.’
“The resolution adopted today allows an exemption from class size maximum requirements for the 2014-2015 school year only. In addition, local school districts will be required to submit a local board resolution to the Georgia Department of Education if class size maximums will exceed the requirements in current statute and State Board Rule 160-5-1-.08 – Class Size. The local board resolution must be approved at a local board meeting. The purpose of the locally approved resolution is to ensure that all stakeholders are informed about the local school district’s decisions regarding increases in class sizes. Local boards of education must continue to meet all federal and state accountability requirements as well as all other requirements within programs that have specific class size stipulations.”
Barge said, “While we don’t like having to ask the board for a waiver of the class size rule, our districts need this flexibility right now so they can continue to operate school each day. If one or two students were to move into some of our schools it would put their classes over the maximum, causing them to hire another teacher that many districts can’t afford. Because a class would then have to be split up, the two classes may be so small that the district would not earn money for either of the teachers. That is just not something we can require of our districts right now with the continued financial hardships many of them are facing. It is important to remember that this is giving districts the flexibility to increase class size if they need to. There is certainly no mandate to increase class size.”