Snow Days Flexibility

Resolution from state unlikely to affect Coweta

by Celia Shortt

Georgia’s State Board of Education approved a resolution Thursday giving individual school districts more flexibility in deciding whether to make up their lost school days due to severe weather, but that is not likely to have an impact in Coweta.

In the past two months, school districts across Georgia, including Coweta County, had to close because of severe winter weather conditions. According to State School Superintendent Dr. John D. Barge, this resolution will help local districts make the best decision for each of them.

“The approval of this resolution will allow local school districts the flexibility to determine if school days missed due to inclement weather will be made up,” Barge said. “Each district has a unique set of challenges with regard to restoring the days missed, so we wanted to ensure they had the means to do whatever was best for them.

Since January, Coweta school officials have canceled school eight times because of severe weather.

“The lost instructional time concerns me,” said Dr. Steve Barker, superintendent for Coweta Schools in a previous interview. “I know it concerns our teachers and parents. We want to do what is best for students and everyone else involved.”

This year, Coweta has stayed above the state’s requirement of 180 school days or its equivalent number of instructional minutes — 300 minutes of instructional time per day for elementary school students and 320 for middle and high school students. The state also has an emergency day rule that provides four emergency days to schools fulfilling those state requirements.

With those four days and because they exceeded the state’s requirement, Coweta does not have to make up the first six missed days.

Barker was already working with the school board over the next few weeks to determine the most effective way to make up the lost instructional time for students and teachers.

— In another decision, the state board is allowing more flexibility on when schools have to give the CRCT tests.

“We can be flexible with the testing window, but there was no blanket waiver for that,” said Matt Cardoza, director of communications for the state board. “If a district needs to extend the state testing window we just ask that they contact our assessment director.”

For Coweta, that option will be explored as they make their decision about how best to make up the missed instructional time.

“In the next couple of weeks, that would be something we would look at and consider as we look at our options [for making up the time],” said Dean Jackson, Coweta School System public information officer.

— Another resolution passed on Thursday allows an exemption from the maximum class size requirements for the 2014-2015 school year. Under it, local school districts will have to submit a resolution to the Georgia Department of Education if their class sizes would exceed the maximum class size requirements.

That resolution also should not affect Coweta, Jackson said.

“While we don’t like having to ask the board for a waiver of the class size rule, our districts need this flexibility right now so they can continue to operate school each day,” said Barge.

“If one or two students were to move into some of our schools it would put their classes over the maximum, causing them to hire another teacher that many districts can’t afford.”

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