Snow Days May Be Coming Back to Bite Us

Dekalb County School District plans to make up all four days lost to inclement weather this January to gain back crucial instructional time. After adding February 16th and March 9th to the school calendar, DCSD released a survey intended to gauge “stakeholder input” for how to recuperate the other two snow days. Despite the fact that Dekalb County is not required to make up days, the survey did not include an option for no additional time.

If you had vacations planned on either of those days: tough luck. Based on a survey of anonymous Lakeside teachers, 58 percent had vacations already planned for February 16t or March 9. Bring it On, Lakeside’s Spring Musical, had to cancel a full day of rehearsals on the 16. About 175 chorus, band, and orchestra students will miss this day for a group trip to Orlando, Florida.

When DCSD closed school for four days during hurricane Irma, the “creative” solution of twenty minute longer school days proved minimally effective. “Adding time to lunch resulted in no actual recovery of missed instruction. Absurd!” said an anonymous Lakeside teacher. The twenty minute setback burdened schedules of both students and teachers. “It was horrible. It made me late to work everyday. I had to sit in twenty extra minutes of traffic after school, and it accomplished nothing,” said an anonymous student in response to the Legend’s survey. 95 percent of Lakeside staff members surveyed said they would not want minutes added to the school day to make up lost time for the snow days this semester. But Dekalb failed to assess the effectiveness of the twenty minute makeups in retrospect.

The school district’s survey publicized its value for community feedback, but it presented only options of digital makeup days and twenty to thirty minute extensions to the school day, with no room for suggestions from students, parents, or teachers. The opinions of those who experienced the twenty minute extension were overwhelmingly negative, but how would a digital makeup day playout? The district’s survey said that “virtual learning access will be made available to students during that week [of digital days],” but we’ve received no explanation of how students could access “virtual learning,” or how it would impact students without internet access or a Chromebook. Many teachers already use Edmodo, Remind 101, and their own websites to post assignments and allow students to work at home. If DeKalb leaves the definition of a digital make up day to individual schools, as they did with the extended day, they cannot guarantee that real instructional time is made up across the board. On the flipside, heavy-handed teachers could assign more work than they would on a normal school day.

As a Strategic Waiver School System, Dekalb can wave the state law OCGA § 20-2-168 and Georgia Board of Education rule 160-5-1-.02 that mandate 180 day school years. Because of this, neither the two announced days nor any other form of makeup are necessary. However, Dekalb has already foregone this option, deadset on making up every missed day.

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