By Jesse Wood
Jan. 30, 2015. On Friday, Avery County Schools and Watauga County Schools were closed once again this week.
So far for the 2014-15 school year, Watauga County Schools has tallied six official snow days with early dismissals for winter weather not counting against the number of missed days “from the standpoint of [the state] calendar law,” WCS spokesman Marshall Ashcraft noted.
“The state’s school calendar law requires 185 days or 1,025 hours of instruction,” Ashcraft said. “We typically have plenty of hours to comply with this standard. It would take some very unusual circumstances for school delays or early dismissals to become an issue in terms of providing the required number of hours.”
On Friday afternoon, WCS announced that the possibility of Saturday school “is now on the table” if another snow day occurs.
“We know that having school on Saturdays disrupts weekend schedules for our families and we would like to avoid it if possible,” said WCS Supt. Scott Elliott. “However, parents and school personnel have told us in the past that they prefer school on Saturday to shortening or eliminating spring break or extending the school year deep into June, and our makeup plan calls for consideration of Saturday school after we miss five days.”
Saturday school would only occur if a school day had been missed in the prior week. If schools are open, it would be an early-release day as K-8 students would dismiss at noon and high school students at 1 p.m. that Saturday. Lunch would be served in all schools and buses would run usual routes. Pre-kindergarten classes will meet, while the afterschool program would not operate on any Saturday.
Elliott noted the school system would strive to provide at least a two-day notice in advance if there is Saturday school.
“Parents of students who miss school on a Saturday may request an excused absence by providing a written note explaining why their child was absent. Decisions about approval of excused absences are at the discretion of the school principal,” according to a release from WCS.
On Friday, Avery County Schools Supt. David Burleson released the latest snowday figures. Avery County Schools has tallied eight missed days so far this academic year and 20.5 hours of lost school time due to delays and early dismissals.
Avery County Schools made up one of the snow days in January by holding school on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. By Avery County Schools extending the school day by 20 minutes, five other snow days have already been made up, according to Burleson.
Thursday and Friday, June 4 and 5 will make up the remainder of school days missed so far.
“With this said, all the days we have missed up to this point have been made up. If we continue the additional 20 minutes, we could have approximately 3 more days that can be used,” Burleson noted in his snow day report to staff.
Burleson added that if more than three snow days are missed, his office will have to decide whether to extend the school year in the second week of June or use up days during Spring Break.