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Safety First for Avery County School Students, ACS Supt. David Burleson on Snow Days: ‘It’s Not An Option’

Jan. 27, 2014. Many may ask, “Why is school closed today”?  

The answer according to Superintendent David Burleson, “We closed school because it was not safe for travel, especially for teenager drivers. While the mission for the Avery County Schools is to graduate every student college or career ready, the safety of students and staff must take top priority. We will always ere on the side of safety when it comes to the decision to close school due to inclement weather or other hazardous situations.”  

Supt. Burleson
Supt. Burleson

The process to close schools is an effort made by a team of professionals following certain procedures. The team begins by gathering information from the national and local weather forecast; followed by advise from the North Caroling Department of Transportation, the Avery Sheriff’s Department, Avery Communications and the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

The team consisting ACS Transportation Director Brian King, Mike Simerly and James Stamey (transportation specialist) and Superintendent David Burleson, begin monitoring and assessing road conditions as early as 3 a.m.  Concurrently, the NC Department of Transportation, Avery Communications, Sheriff’s Department and the NC Highway Patrol are monitoring and accessing road conditions. Consideration is given to school buses to make sure that conditions and/or rigid temperatures do not threaten the operating efficiency of each bus.  School buses often have difficulty starting and operating with the temperatures reach single digits. 

David Burleson, in a recent interview stated that, “Avery County Schools is committed to each child’s education. We aggressively and intentionally do every thing possible to ensure that each child receives the best education possible. In order to stand behind our mission, we will never sacrifice student safety and will, without exception, provide the safest travel for each child.  We are aware of the havoc the winter has caused our school year calendar, especially with our high school testing schedule and exams.  We understand the need to stay on a schedule that supports student learning.  The decision to close school at anytime is not an easy decision and is prayerfully made. We will continue to move forward for student success and to operate our schools in the safest manner possible. We greatly appreciate the patience of our staff, students and our parents.  One thing is for sure–spring is coming! Working together we can get through the difficult, inclement days.”

Mr. Burleson expressed appreciation to the YMCA for offering Snow Camp for students in grades first through sixth.  This service is available from 8:30 to 3:30 each day that we are not in school.  The camp is hosted as Newland Elementary.  In addition, many teachers offer snow packets for students to work on at home when school is not in session.

Currently, Avery County Schools have missed 9 school days, lost 18 hours for delays or early dismissals completing 90 schools days. One make up day took place on January 17 and the remaining will take place February 21, March 28, May 26 and June 6.  It is important to note that the North Carolina General Assembly requires that each school year conducts school 185 days or 1025 instructional hours.  This legislation changed from180 days and 1000 instructional hours, allowing school systems to include extra time, “bank time”, in order to fulfill the requirements.  The General Assembly also mandates when schools can begin and end each school year, which effects how hours are used, banked, and how days are made up.  ACS built the current school calendar around the 185 days, which offers 1089 hours of instructional giving the district 64 hours over the required amount.   Each year a school calendar committee, made up of volunteers, teachers, and administration works diligently to design a schedule that will best meet the needs of students and community. 

Presently, ACS has 181 school days recorded and 1047 instructional hours.  According to the superintendent, the current plan is to add 30 minutes to every school day except Friday.  This altered schedule will start February 3 and continue through March. 

Adding this time, adds over two and a half days to the calendar making up the required time.  This plan will allow students to keep the four vacation days at Easter and will finish the school year the first week of June.  He further stated that Saturday school would be a last option, but may be necessary depending on the amount of days missed throughout the rest of winter.  To access the most recent 2013-2014 school calendar, visit www.averyschools.net.  The calendars are updated as needed.