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Board announces school makeup days

POSTED: February 26, 2014 4:00 a.m.

With ice and snow hitting Dawson County during January and February, students and teachers missed almost two weeks of school.

"As you know, this winter has been especially harsh, which has resulted in nine days of absences due to the inclement weather...," said Dawson County School Superintendent Keith Porter in a letter addressed to parents dated Feb. 21. "The difficult situation with missed days is made worse due to the fact that we started the year two days short of a full student calendar due to budget."

Multiple weather systems shut down most of Dawson County on Jan. 6, 7, 28 through 31 and again from Feb. 11 through 14.

While the state passed a resolution last week to allow flexibility in making up the nine days, Porter said the system is hesitant to immediately accept.

According to the current plan, pending any additional weather issues, the system made full student days out of Feb. 17 and 18, March 12, 13 and 14, as well as April 7. All schools will also extend the end of the school day by 30 minutes, March 3-28.

"We are deeply concerned by the amount of valuable instructional time that has already been missed...," said Porter. "Although some of this flexibility will be used, it is imperative that sufficient instructional minutes are added to ensure that our students have a fair opportunity to ... master content and skills essential for future coursework."

"Whether it is an elementary student trying to learn to read, a high school advanced placement student attempting to pass the AP exam, or a middle school student making efforts to prepare for high school coursework, their preparation must be adequate for future success."

According to Porter, the system's calendar days were already reduced from 180 days to 178 days due to budgetary issues. Dawson County schools are 11 days short, with nine for weather and two taken from the start of the year.

"It is apparent that attempting to attain the full calendar would be very difficult, but our goal is to get to 176 days or the time equivalent," he said. "We have worked with our administrative leadership team, charter system governing board [made up of parents], principals, teachers, board of education and others to try to research our options on the best manner to make up the missed time."

Porter said that the options considered were: Saturday classes, extended school days, inclement weather days, removal of spring break, extending the school year and use of other flexible days, such as professional learning and early release days.

"Let me apologize in advance for any hardships that this will cause," he said. "By making up the days in this manner, spring break would be spared, which is important due to the many scheduled vacations and trips of students and staff. Additionally, we can prevent any alteration to our graduation or school year ending dates by using this plan."

Porter said that, despite what may be an unpopular decision, great care and consideration was put into deciding the days.

"We have tried to be cautious in determining the days that should be missed due to the various weather events with student and staff safety our first priority," he said. "The winter season is still upon us, so it is possible that additional weather events could occur in the future."


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