Make-up-days vote saves spring break

jalexander@newsobserver.comMarch 31, 2014 

— For schools, snow days in the winter start out as a fun impromptu vacation day, where kids go sledding on neighborhood hills and sleep in an extra hour or two.

But by spring those days quickly becomes a nuisance when faced with the possibility of making up lost instruction time during spring break or by cutting into vacation plans.

According to state law, there must be 185 days of school or the equivalent of 1,025 hours of instruction time during the school year.

Only five days are designated for make-up days at the beginning of the year.

This school year, Durham Public Schools has had to cancel seven days of school due to snow or ice.

Two were made up on teacher workdays for traditional schools, while three were forgiven because Durham Public Schools are in school more hours than the 1,025 required.

Last week, district officials proposed that instead of making up the last two snow days during the first two days of spring break (April 14-15), they add two days to the end of the school year. Instead of June 10 being the last day of school, the last day would be on June 12.

However, that would mean any subsequent snow days would have to be made up over spring break.

All board members were in agreement with half the resolution to add two days to the end of school, but most were not for taking away days from spring break.

There was much discussion back and forth.

Vice Chairwoman Minnie Forte-Brown said teachers have come to her and thanked the board for saving spring break. She said she wants to continue to honor that.

“If I’m a traditional teacher, then I need my spring break as well,” Forte-Brown said. “We don’t control the weather. We need to take this to legislation to ask for forgiveness. They made (the law) with their own selfish intent.”

Board member Nancy Cox echoed Forte-Brown’s sentiments about keeping spring break. She said everyone needs spring break, including teachers and students.

Cox said families would be forced to alter their already set vacation plans.

“You’re exhausted,” she said at Thursday’s school board meeting. “If we approve this tonight then we’re putting families in limbo.

Board member Leigh Bordley and board Chairwoman Heidi Carter disagreed with Forte-Brown’s notion to forgive any subsequent days.

“I wish we weren’t in this situation, but we are,” Bordley said. “The last thing we need is less time in school. Our students need more time with our teachers.”

After a lengthy discussion, the general consensus was to add minutes on to the end of school each day in the event of another snow day.

However, district officials were not comfortable saying how many minutes would be added on to a day until they sat down and calculated them. A decision will be made at a later date.

Half of the resolution was passed to save spring break this time around.

Non-traditional schools have already had spring break but will also add two days to the end of the school year to make up the last two missed days.

Alexander: 919-932-2008; Twitter: @jonmalexander1

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