By Tim Gardner
Barring what Superintendent Dan Brigman called “A snow blizzard like happened here in 1993,” Avery County Public Schools will have a full spring break as originally scheduled.
Despite missing 14 days due to inclement winter weather during the 2019-2020 school year, students, faculty and staff members will not lose any of their spring break, which will run April 13-17.
Avery Schools also will be closed on Good Friday, April 10.
Besides the large number of missed days, Avery Schools also have had starting times of classes extended by an hour-to-three hours several other days due to inclement winter weather.
The 2019-2020 academic school year is set to end on Friday, May 22. However, the actual date the school year ends still will be determined by the weather. More missed days due to weather could push its closing date up later in May or into June.
North Carolina revised its school attendance policy a few years ago and it currently requires public school students to attend classes for 1,080 hours each school year instead of whole days that was stipulated in its old policy. In emergency situations due to inclement weather, freaks of nature, disasters or other similar happenings, the state can lower the hours students must attend each school year to 1,025.
Brigman acknowledged that under the revised terms, it’s easier to make up school time missed by hours instead of whole days because of snow or other bad weather conditions
He stated: “That new state revision gives schools systems much more and badly needed flexibility for making up missed school time and is particularly beneficial for schools in mountain counties like ours (Avery) since we have more snow and bad winter weather than most regions in the state. Of course, Avery County often has the absolute worst weather of any such school system.”
He noted that school could be held on one or more Saturdays if more days are missed due to inclement weather, but that would be an “absolute last resort.”
The State of North Carolina only allows public schools to be open on a Saturday if schools were closed one or more days during that week. By regulations, North Carolina Public Schools cannot be open for classes more than five days per week.
The longest closing date for students, teachers and staff in Avery County Schools came forty years ago during the 1977-78 year when they didn’t shut down until June 27 due to many missed days from inclement winter weather.
And the Blizzard of 1993 that Brigman referred to caused schools to be closed for two weeks as at least 42 inches, and in some places more than 60 inches, blanketed Avery County. Most parts of the county did not have rural mail delivery for more than a week then.
Brigman also said that there is no indication yet that Avery Schools may be forced to close for any period of time due to the world-wide Coronavirus. But the North Carolina High School Athletics Association, the governing body of prep sports in the state announced yesterday that due to the threat from COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) has suspended all interscholastic athletics beginning at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, March 13, 2020, through Monday, April 6th, 2020. This includes all workouts, skill development, practices, and games or matches. The NCHSAA also postponed the 2020 Men’s and Women’s Basketball State Championships indefinitely.
Additionally, the NCHSAA Board of Directors announced the COVID-19 situation will be assessed regularly over the next few weeks.
“As much as we would like this opportunity for our student-athletes, coaches, and their communities, we know that ultimately any decision we make must err on the side of caution,” said NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker.
Some states have closed schools due to the pandemic and various colleges and universities across the nation have shut down for several weeks and others that have closed are offering online classes. Many high schools, elementary schools and colleges and universities and/or their governing bodies have also suspended all athletics events indefinitely.