Wake County Schools Needs Better Way To Make Up Lost Time

Despite claim that Spring Break was safe, WCPSS decides to cut into Spring Break for make-up time

Daulton Bahm, Online Editor

After eight snow days, the Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) had to make an important decision about how to make up the lost instructional time. State law is very strict about when the school year has to end and how many hours are needed, which makes make-up day scheduling very difficult. An ice storm that lasted from Feb. 16-17 caused schools to close for the remainder of that week, accounting for four snow days. Another pair of back-to-back winter weather events also caused WCPSS to close schools for four days the following week. WCPSS needs to stop closing schools all the time and find a better way to make up time.

For the first snow day Feb. 17, WCPSS originally considered March 23 to be the weather makeup day. This day was the first Monday of spring break and resulted in a lot of backlash to the WCPSS Twitter account. This make-up plan would have caused many students to have a shorter spring break and would not have provided any quality instructional time. As a result, WCPSS eventually decided to not make up any days this week by using banked instructional hours and cancelling the March 6 and April 17 early release days. Using banked hours was a nice bonus for students, but why is WCPSS taking away instructional time that students need?

The following week, schools were originally scheduled to open Feb. 24, but an unexpected snowstorm caused WCPSS schools to close early that morning. A makeup day was not required for that day as buses began their routes. Another snowstorm occurred on Feb. 25-26, closing schools for the remainder of that week, and resulting in 28 more instructional hours lost.

Tuesday, March 3, WCPSS initially announced the make-up days for the time lost from the previous week’s snow days: Good Friday (April 3), a Saturday in April and a Saturday in May. Good Friday, which is a Christian religious holiday and listed as a “Holiday” on the WCPSS calendar, was criticized heavily by students and parents as a makeup day, in addition to the Saturdays. WCPSS argues that little instructional value is achieved by having school on the end-of-year makeup days (June 9, 10 and 11) but attendance will likely be higher on these dates and more instruction will be taught.

WCPSS said “spring break was safe” on its Twitter page March 3, but March 7 they announced the official make-up days would be March 23, 24 and 25, which would shorten spring break to a four-day weekend. They changed the make-up days due to the criticism caused by the original makeup days. The response to this decision was even worse than the first one, especially because WCPSS gave false information to their students and needs to be held accountable. A change.org petition to “Bring Back Spring Break 2K15” appeared shortly after the announcement, which garnered over 8,000 signatures. By March 9, WCPSS had received enough complaints for the decision so they said that students and teachers that could not attend these days would be “not penalized” and absences for that week would not count against senior exemptions. This is basically WCPSS admitting their mistake and saying that the spring break days are optional.

Although the end-of year make-up days would have been the best option for this school year, as it can be difficult to change bell schedules in the middle of the school year, the best solution for make-up days in future school years is to simply add time to the school day without adding any additional school days. By simply adding ten minutes to the day (ending school at 2:28), enough time will be added to compensate for up to five instructional days. This would mean that no weather make-up days would be required unless there was an unusually harsh year for weather, like the past two years were. Alternatively, WCPSS could add the time, but also schedule four or five additional teacher workdays or vacation days that could be used as make-up days throughout the year. However, the N.C. School Calendar Law makes this difficult, although there is some hope now that WCPSS may get an exemption from the calendar law beginning in the 2016-17 school year.