The Bradley County school system has been forced to make some changes to its calendar for the remainder of the current school year because of the snow days it had to use earlier in the year.
A request made to the Tennessee Department of Education to waive the requirement to make up one of the snow days was rejected, said Director of Schools Johnny McDaniel.
“We have adjusted our calendar to accommodate our directive from the state,” McDaniel said.
Snow days became a problem for the school system’s calendar in mid-February.
By Feb. 14, the system had closed for nine days due to weather-related issues, including snow and cold weather that McDaniel said closed schools because of heating systems that had at the time been broken.
That was two days beyond the seven Tennessee public schools are allowed to use.
The Tennessee Board of Education’s “Minimum Requirements for the Approval of Public Schools” allows schools to “adopt policies providing for individual schools to have school days of at least seven hours,” adding to the required six and a half-hour school day “in order to accumulate instructional time to be used for periodic early student dismissals for the purpose of faculty professional development.”
McDaniel said the Bradley County school system has been doing that for years, keeping students an extra half hour each day to allow for more development days.
Including the stockpiled days, the local system had 13 days it could be closed to students during the 2013-2014 school year.
If a school system wants to use the teacher in-service or staff development days, they must be subtracted from those 13 days.
The number is also the maximum allowed by the state board of education’s rules, which say “early dismissals shall not exceed the equivalent of 13 days.”
Four stockpiled staff development days had been on this year’s schedule, along with two additional in-service days that were allowed under the state’s “Race to the Top” initiative. This left only seven days that could be used as “emergency days” for things like snow.
On Feb. 12, Gov. Bill Haslam declared Tennessee to be in a level three state of emergency due to the snow.
McDaniel said on Feb. 14 that he hoped the state education commissioner would grant a request to waive one of the two missed days because of Haslam’s declaration. The other day could be absorbed into the school schedule “with no problem,” he said at the time.
McDaniel announced this past week the request had been denied, and the school system’s calendar had to change to make up the two extra days students missed school.
He said he was told that exceptions were only made in the case of large-scale emergencies like tornadoes, not in the cases of school being canceled for things like the weather being cold in the winter.
“We’re making up the day now,” he said.
The changes will include making an abbreviated day a full one and requiring students to attend school one day that had previously been set aside for teacher in-service.
May 21 will change from an abbreviated day to a full day. May 22 will no longer be a teacher in-service day but will instead become an abbreviated day for students.
May 23 was already set to be an abbreviated student day. It will remain an abbreviated day as well as the final day of classes for students.
Schools will still be closed for teachers on May 26 for the Memorial Day holiday, but they will have to return for an in-service day that has been added on May 27.
According to the official schedule for the 2013-2014 year, the system had about 30 days worth of breaks scheduled during the school year, not including the Saturdays and Sundays when students would normally be out.
Those included a five-day fall break from Oct. 7 to 11, a three-day Thanksgiving break from Nov. 27 to 29, a 12-day Christmas break between Dec. 21 to Jan. 8 and a five-day spring break lasting from March 24 to 28. Schools were also set to be closed on Labor Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents’ Day.
The Bradley County school system elected to keep the spring break and other scheduled holidays on the calendar.
Public schools are required to teach students 180 days each year.