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Snow causes calendar dilemma

January 13, 2011

Area students enjoyed an extended break from school this week because of icy conditions in the county.
For some students, that break keeps growing.
Catawba County Schools and Hickory City Schools canceled classes for Friday.
CCS staff have an optional teacher workday, and staff members are asked to use discretion when arriving at school Friday. HCS staff have an optional teacher workday Friday on a two-hour delay.
School officials are now faced with the task of scheduling those makeup days into an already packed school calendar.
Pat Hensley, Catawba County Schools assistant superintendent of human resources, said system officials entertained dozens of scenarios about when students return to school and what days become makeup days.
Many factors go into the decision to cancel, delay or makeup a school day.
"There's still a lot of snow and ice out there, and it's not just about roads," Hensley said. "It's about keeping people safe on school campuses."
CCS scheduled makeup days for Jan. 17, Jan. 24, Jan. 25, Feb. 21 and March 28, according to Carleen Crawford, Catawba County Schools public information officer. These days account for the five missed school days from the week's winter weather.
Students in Newton-Conover City Schools returned to school Thursday with a two-hour delay. NCCS Superintendent Dr. Barry Redmond said classes Friday will also operate on a two-hour delay.
NCCS students will attend school Saturday, and classes are scheduled to start at their normal times. The system's three elementary schools will release students at 1 p.m. Saturday, and Newton-Conover Middle School will release students at 1:15 p.m. Newton-Conover High School will release students at 12:40 p.m. Saturday, and Newton-Conover Health-Science High School will release its students at 12:50 p.m.
Redmond said students will go to school Monday, which was originally scheduled as a holiday. NCCS students will also attend class Jan. 24 and Feb. 21, which were teacher workdays.
Those makeup days will allow NCCS students to be caught up from the days missed because of snow, Redmond said.
Hensley, however, said those makeup days are dependent on weather situations, as well as additional missed school days.
"We have to think about the bigger picture," she said.
The state-mandated school calendar requires students to attend class for 180 days a year with at least 1,000 hours of instruction. In addition, the state also mandates when the school year can start and stop. This year, classes can't continue beyond June 10, which limits officials' options when it comes to scheduling makeup days, Hensley said.
Adding hours to the school day is also not a complete fix to the scheduling problem. Hensley said school must be in session for 180 days, so although adding more hours to the day will fulfill the 1,000 instructional hours requirement, it won't fulfill the daily requirement.
Crawford said the county's missed school days make it possible for students and staff to attend school for months without a break until the spring holidays in April.
"We would probably try to protect (spring break) days as much as possible and look to Memorial Day and workdays at the end of the year," she said.
North Carolina mandates the school calendar for state school districts, which
CCS high school students are scheduled to start end-of-course testing next week, and Hensley encouraged parents and students to remember those tests, and their importance, in the coming days.
With two more months of winter remaining, officials can make additional changes to the calendar as adverse weather arises.
"We're never going to be able to control the weather," Hensley said.

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