Make-up plan spares spring break

Mar. 28, 2014 @ 06:27 PM

Spring break remains safe for Durham school children, at least for now.

The school board on Thursday approved a plan to make up the two most recent school days missed due to bad weather – March 7 and March 18.

The plan protects the coveted April 14-18 spring break of students on the traditional school calendar as long as they don’t miss any more days of school due to inclement weather.

However, the school year, originally scheduled to end June 10, will be extended two days, and will now end June 12.

Meanwhile, students on year-round schedules will attend school on March 31, which was originally scheduled as a teacher work day and inclement weather day.

They will also attend school Apri1 1, a scheduled inclement weather day and the first day of year-round students’ three-week intercession.      

Students at specialty high schools such as City of Medicine Academy, which has already had its spring break because its calendar is aligned with area colleges, will see its school year extended two days.  

CMA students will go to school May 23 and May 27, which now becomes the last day of school. The last day of school for CMA students was supposed to be May 22.

School calendars at Josephine Dobbs Clement Early College High School and the Middle College High School will also be extended two days, sending students to school on May 21 and May 22. The school year for those schools was supposed to end May 20.

School administrators also looked ahead and developed a plan to cover additional snow days should they occur.

The plan calls for the makeup days to occur during spring break, April 14-17 for students on the traditional school calendar.

But the school board didn’t adopt that portion of the plan, opting to wait to consider other choices, including tacking extra minutes on to the end of the school day to meet the required number of hours for the 2013-14 school year.

Debbie Pitman, assistant superintendent of student, family and community services, said  few options are left.

“When we look at traditional calendar, we have come to the end of the journey of how to support and protect spring break,” Pitman said. “Hopefully, we will not need four more days, but if we do, the options are the three work days at the end of the year, two of which we’ve already said we’re going to use. We’ve got to protect one day for teachers to do grades, report cards, close out schools.”

Still, the prospect of forcing students and teachers to go to school during the spring break didn’t sit well with some board members who have vowed to save spring break.

To help avoid that possibility, the board called an emergency meeting March 4 to forgive three days -- Feb.13-14 and March 4 -- students had missed due to inclement weather.

Although the school district could forgive another two days, school board Chairwoman Heidi Carter, said she could not support forgiving additional school days or holding school on Saturday as was suggested by school board member Fredrick Davis.

 “I will not vote to do that, just so you’ll know,” Carter said, referring to Davis’ suggestion that the board consider changing its policy so that school can be held on Saturday.

School board member Nancy Cox and School board Vice Chairwoman Minnie-Forte Brown were both vocal in their opposition to using spring break to make up any additional days of schools that might be missed due to bad weather.

“Families have plans for spring break and if we approved this tonight we are putting families in limbo with their … spring break plans,” Cox said.

Forte-Brown said the school board should lobby the General Assembly for more flexibility to modify calendars.

Agreeing with Cox, Forte-Brown said it’s important that teachers working on traditional calendars have a full spring break.

“This is when we need to go to the legislature and tell them that we don’t control the weather and so therefore, they have to do something about the calendar,” Forte-Brown said. “They made the [school] calendar based on their vacation, based on tourism.”