Snow daze: Area schools must do the time

The old saying that every cloud has a silver lining may be true unless you're an area student or teacher, and the cloud in question is filled with snow.

Central Virginia school systems missed as many as 20 days of school this year because of the season's far-above average snowfall, and the results are not as pretty as the white scenery those storms created.

Some students have missed their spring break, some are going to school for longer hours each day, and some will be attending school for as much as an additional week come June. The groans are audible, though they are louder in certain counties.

In Greene County, where snow canceled school on 11 days, every missed hour will be made up. In addition to attending school on two teacher workdays, students have lost two days of spring break, and an extra half-hour has been added to the end of each school day from March 17 to May 16.

Maurie Sutton, a special ed teacher, says Greene's policy has been a hardship particularly the loss of the teacher workdays, when planning for classes and finishing grading are traditionally done.

But a school spokesperson says preparing for the Standards of Learning tests is of pressing importance. "We think with the SOLs, we need to be in school as much as possible," she explains.

Over in Nelson County, which lost a whopping 20 days, the policy is a bit easier on the teachers' and students' psyches. A letter from Nelson High School principal David S. Francis on the school's website says that only five days need be made up; the high school has taken care of those five days by adding 20 minutes to each day seven minutes before the original start time, and 13 minutes at the end of the day.

That decision is based on the state's requirements: Each school system must have 990 hours of instructional time each school year (typically 180 days). The state policy becomes quite complex during winters with heavy snow: After 10 snow days but less than 15, five days plus each day in excess of 10 and up to 15 must be made up. Get that?

In other words, when you hit 10, start counting at five again. Missed 11 days? Six must be made up. 12 days? Seven make-ups. And so on.

After 15 days, a school system may apply for a waiver for the additional missed time, but must prove that every effort was made to meet the requirements.

Thanks to this policy, Nelson, which already had snow days built into its calendar, got off relatively light.

Madison County schools– which missed 13 days, had make-up days on January 2, 3, and 20– gave up four days of their spring break, and will give up Memorial Day. But a school administrator downplays the outcry. There was "some unhappiness" about losing holiday time, she says, but there were only "a few comments."

In Albemarle and Charlottesville, spring break remained intact, but both had days to make up. In the city, which missed nine days total, February 14, 17, and April 4 were snow-make-up days, and the school year will extend to Tuesday, June 10 (instead of Friday, June 6).

W.T. Lewis, director of human resources for the city school system, says that because their school day is longer than required, fewer days needed to be made up.

Albemarle students, on the other hand, who missed 11 days, must go to school through June 13 (instead of June 6) in addition to the several days they've already made up.

However each school system chooses to deal with lost class time, it's sure to be difficult for once-snowbound students now struck with spring fever.

Asked about attending school an extra week this June, Sarah Teplitzki, a seventh grader at Albemarle's Jack Jouett Middle School, says, "I definitely don't want to."

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