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Snow day makeup: Atlanta adds minutes to school day; DeKalb adds full days. Your preference?

To compensate for a surge in weather-related school closings this year, Atlanta Public Schools added minutes while DeKalb Schools opted to add days.

Most metro area school districts lost four days this month to ice and snow, including three days last week.  After surveying its community, APS announced yesterday it would extend its school day by 30 minutes from Jan. 29 to March 30 to make up the lost time.

DeKalb County Public Schools chose instead to hold class on two previously scheduled days off, Feb. 16 and March 9. A survey will be conducted in DeKalb to decide how to make up the two other days.

As the AJC reports:

School was to close Friday, Feb. 16, and Monday,  Feb. 19, for a break, which includes Presidents Day. Students will now attend school on Feb. 16, but remain off Feb. 19. They also will attend school on March 9, originally planned as a teacher workday.

“Protecting our instructional time is key to supporting student achievement. Making up lost time on those dates is prudent and the least disruptive of the options that were considered,” said DeKalb Superintendent Steve Green in a press statement. “For the third and fourth day, we will diligently survey a cross-section of parents, teachers, principals, teacher organizations, parent-teacher organizations, parent council groups, and school council members to determine the best option for our students and families.”

It is interesting to see the divide among parents on whether to add days or minutes or make up the time at all. Georgia districts have a lot more leeway now with their schedules under state flexibility contracts and some are not making up the time.

As the AJC reported:

Most students in metro Atlanta have missed a week or more of classroom time due to weather this school year, but few have to make up any of it. Nearly every school district has a waiver from the state requirement of a minimum of 180 classroom days. And some, including Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, are keeping their students on track with the internet.

"We have online learning days so we don't have inclement weather days built into the calendar," said Jennifer Carracciolo, spokeswoman for Forsyth County Schools. Like most, Forsyth missed school for Tropical Storm Irma, a weather scare last week and the snowstorm this week. The district kept kids learning online most of those days, but even if Forsyth falls behind, it won't have to make up any days.

Forsyth and most other districts can get around the instruction time requirement with so-called "flexibility" contracts. All but two of Georgia's 180 districts have them, and most of the contracts contain a calendar waiver. The flexibility contracts allow exemption from many state rules in exchange for reaching goals on state tests and other measures.

Among the reactions to adding minutes to the day vs. adding days to the calendar:

Adding time to the day is useless. As a teacher, I can tell you the kids -- especially young ones -- are done by then and it's a logistical nightmare for parents.

Educators can't win on this one. Best answer? Waive the days.

Extending the school day did not help our children in any way. It made middle schoolers get home at ridiculous times due to traffic. Let’s just make good use of the days we have left. I propose less MAP testing. There is no benefit from constantly testing our children.

We already have family vacation plans for that day in February. If families have plans, can DeKalb call it an excused absence?

Eliminate some testing days and teach on those days instead.



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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.