published Sunday, February 20th, 2011

School systems cope with snow days


by Adam Crisp

SNOW DAYS

Catoosa County Public Schools

Snow days used: 6

Snow days scheduled: 3

Plan: Students will attend class Feb. 17, March 17 and March 21, all of which previously were school holidays.

Calhoun City Schools

Snow days used: 5

Snow days scheduled: 4

Plan: Students will attend class Feb. 22 to Feb. 25, previously a winter break.

Chickamauga City Schools

Snow days used: 6

Snow days scheduled: 4

Plan: Students will attend classes on one holiday, President's Day (Monday), and Good Friday (April 22), which is scheduled to be an early release day.

Chattooga County Schools

Snow days used: 5

Snow days scheduled: 4

Plan: Students will attend class on three Mondays that previously were scheduled as off days: March 14, March 28 and April 18.

Dade County Schools

Snow days used: 5

Snow days scheduled: 4

Plan: Students will attend classes on two days that previously were holidays: March 18 and May 13. Students made up one day on Jan. 17.

Dalton Public Schools

Snow days used: 6

Snow days scheduled: 4

Plan: Students will attend classes Monday and April 22, two previously scheduled holidays.

Gordon County Schools

Snow days used: 6

Snow days scheduled: 4

Plan: Students will attend class on March 11, previously a holiday, and the school day will has been lengthened by 15 minutes until April 1.

Murray County Schools

Snow days used: 6

Snow days scheduled: 4

Plan: Students will attend classes on Presidents Day and Good Friday.

Trion City Schools

Snow days used: 6

Snow days scheduled: 4

Plan: Students will attend class on two days previously designated as "furlough days."

Walker County Schools

Snow days used: 9

Snow days scheduled: 4

Plan: Students are attending classes 15 minutes longer than usual, and they will attend classes Monday and March 11.

Whitfield County Schools

Snow days used: 6

Snow days scheduled: 4

Plan: Students will attend classes on Presidents Day and Good Friday.



TENNESSEE

Hamilton County

Snow days used: 7

Snow days scheduled: 7

Plan: No action is needed, but if any more days are missed school days will be lengthened.

Bradley County

Snow days used: 7

Snow days scheduled: 7

Plan: No action is needed if no more days are missed.

Cleveland City

Snow days used: 7

Snow days scheduled: 11

Plan: The system still has several days left to use in case of future bad weather.

Grundy County

Snow days used: 15

Snow days scheduled: 10

Plan: Students will attend class Monday, March 8, 21 and 22 as well as April 2 to make up the days.

Marion County

Snow days used: 11

Snow days scheduled: 9

Plan: School leaders may add days to the school calendar

Polk County

Snow days used: 15

Snow days scheduled: 10

Plan: School leaders haven't decided how to make up the days.

Sequatchie County

Snow days used: 12

Snow days scheduled: 11

Plan: Students will attend class on Presidents Day.

Students in some school systems across the region missed up to 15 days of class this year as heavy ice and snowstorms swept the area.

Leaders are holding their breath now, hoping no more snow is coming, but they also are trying to devise plans to deal with the time students already have spent away from their books.

In Georgia, the state in most cases allotted four days for snow and bad weather or schoolwide illness such as an influenza outbreak.

Tennessee, with dozens of schools in eastern mountain communities, allows up to 13 days, but many systems used some of those for teacher planning.

Now systems such as Grundy County are having to decide how they will make up the absences.

Grundy students have been out of class 15 days so far this school year, and the system needs to add five days of instructional time. School leaders just last week received approval to add five days to the calendar, including on Saturdays.

"We just got approval [Friday] from the state department of education to add the days," said David Dickerson, the system's supervisor of instruction.

School systems have some options, said Amanda Anderson, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Education.

"Schools can add time to the school day, have students attend class on holidays, cancel spring break or extend the school year," Anderson said.

In cases of natural disaster, the state may allow the school year to be shorter than 180 days, but Anderson said that wasn't likely this year.

It takes an event the size of the floods in Nashville last year to trigger "natural disaster" mode. Twenty-one people died in Tennessee during the floods, including 10 in Davidson County near Nashville.

"In Nashville last year, during the flood, we waived the school district's requirement to have 180 days of instruction," she said. "But with just snow, that probably doesn't meet the level of a natural disaster."

Schools have gotten creative, however, in adding more class time.

Schools in Walker County, Ga., have opted to add 15 minutes to every school day, and spokeswoman Elaine Womack said students will attend class Monday and March 11, both previously holidays.

Marion County, Tenn., school leaders aren't sure yet how they will handle their two extra days. One school, Monteagle Elementary, missed 13 days, curriculum director Johnny Grimes said.

"If we end up with just the two days, we may just add them to the end of the school year," Grimes said. "But if we get any more snow days, we may even have to have kids come back on Saturday."

Some Georgia schools, including the Calhoun and Chattooga County systems, already had shortened the school year but lengthened each school day to save money. Calhoun plans to make up four school days over next week's winter break. Instead of being off the entire week, students will only be off Monday, which is Presidents Day.

"We feel we can't afford to miss any additional student learning days," said Calhoun Superintendent Michele Taylor. "I will say that the consensus is ... we vote 'no' to more snow."

Hamilton County has used all its snow days, said spokeswoman Danielle Clark, so if there are any other school cancellations, the system may have to decide where to cut.

"The superintendent has said he is not in favor of taking spring break days, nor does he feel going to school on Saturdays is viable," Clark said.

"As such, if we use any more days, we will be looking at the idea of extending the school day, in 30-minute increments, for a definitive amount of time."

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about Adam Crisp...

Adam Crisp covers education issues for the Times Free Press. He joined the paper's staff in 2007 and initially covered crime, public safety, courts and general assignment topics. Prior to Chattanooga, Crisp was a crime reporter at the Savannah Morning News and has been a reporter and editor at community newspapers in southeast Georgia. In college, he led his student paper to a first-place general excellence award from the Georgia College Press Association. He earned ...

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