Recent cancellations within the Cleveland City Schools system due to snowfall and icy conditions reduced the number of days allotted for emergency cancellations from nine to just one.
Director of City Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff reported one or two actions would take place in the event more days are needed.
“Our first option would be to cancel the staff development days,” Ringstaff said.
He explained that 13 days were built into the school calendar. Nine were set aside for emergency cancellations. Another four were declared staff development days.
There are traditionally no classes during staff development. However, implementation of this option would exchange staff development days for regular instruction time.
All staff development days, with the exception of one on April 6, have been used.
Ringstaff offered up another suggestion.
“Some schools are looking into adding time to the school day,” he said. “We have to be careful with that because of hourly employees who can’t work more than 40 hours a week, or else [the school system] has to pay them [overtime].”
School systems across the state discussed similar options to address the steep reduction of emergency days. Some suggested requiring students to attend school on certain Saturdays. Other debated the usefulness of tacking days onto the end of the school year.
Ringstaff said he favors the first two options, lengthening the school day and using staff development days.
“Those are your best two options because you are gaining back actual instructional time,” he said. “If you add it to the end of the year or put [students] in school on Saturdays, kids don’t come. If it is after testing, then you don’t gain anything.”
Ringstaff added, “You are just playing a game of time. I would much rather play the game of instruction. In my opinion, we have got to be in school to learn.”
There is currently no discussion on using spring break as a way to make up any needed cancellation days. Ringstaff assured he understands a number of family trips have already been planned for the weeklong vacation. However, he did mention the possibility of moving a planned Good Friday vacation day to instructional time.
Any decisions on lengthening the school day or cancelling staff development days will be made by the Cleveland Board of Education.
As the superintendent, Ringstaff has the final call on school cancellations. He compared his experience in Virginia school administration to his time in the Volunteer State.
“There seems to be a heavier emphasis placed on projected weather patterns by looking at what the forecast will be, instead of seeing what will happen,” Ringstaff said. “Tennessee is very proactive in calling school like the [forecast weather event already happened]. Hit or miss, you stick with it.”
He said he appreciated the extra preparation time afforded to parents by Tennessee’s model.
He said much consideration goes into school cancellations.
“We don’t get trigger happy with these things,” Ringstaff said. “We are going to do what is best for the kids.”
Four of the eight cancellations occurred within the past week: Feb. 11-14. An additional four cancellations occurred a couple of weeks earlier. These numbers are in direct contrast with the previous two years’ cancellations. Two days were used during the 2012-13 school year, and only one in the year prior.
The city school system places heavy emphasis on the recommendation of the Bradley Emergency Services.
According to Ringstaff, school will return to normal Tuesday.
“Teachers will pick right back up from where they left off. There will be no real work to make up. We are going to tinker with the testing schedule more,” Ringstaff said. “… From everything I hear, [everyone] is ready to have the kids back in school, and we are ready to get them back. We are excited. I am glad the kids had fun. There were a lot of pictures, but now it is time to get back to school.”