BOTETOURT – Botetourt County students will use all three scheduled makeup days that are left in the school calendar, plus they’ll go to school on March 15 and Memorial Day, May 31, to cover five of the eight days the school division had missed as of Thursday.
The Botetourt School Board approved the revised calendar during its regular February meeting Thursday night.
The school division had set aside five makeup days in its original calendar, but students were out of school for snow on two of those days anyway. That left just three makeup days between now and when school ends June 9. Those days are March 12, April 2 and April 30.
School divisions are required to make up the first five days students miss because of inclement weather, then they have to make up one day for each two days they miss after that.
The School Board agreed to turn Monday, March 15 into a makeup day instead of using it as a teacher in-service workday, and to forego the Memorial Day holiday. The school division has held school on Memorial Day off and on over the years.
To cover the other three days missed so far, the School Board agreed to use what School Superintendent Dr. Tony Brads called “excess time,” and Assistant Superintendent John Busher said he prefers to call “accrued days” instead of “banked days,” as they’ve been called in other school divisions.
The state requires 5-1/2 hours of instruction in a school day, but Botetourt has six-hour instructional days (after dropping the half-hour for lunch). According to Busher, that means county schools have accrued five extra days of school since August.
Those five accrued days give the schools a cushion should bad weather continue. The schools have used one of those days already—that covers snow days six and seven. Right now, the school division doesn’t have to make up the eighth snow day students have missed, but if students miss a ninth day, they’ll use the second accrued day as the makeup for missing day eight and nine.
Under this scenario, students can miss seven more snow days and the school division will not have to create any more makeup days.
If the school division does miss more than that, the School Board will have to re-examine the calendar again, and that may mean cutting into the week of spring break.
The administration and School Board don’t like that idea, but the administration doesn’t favor extending the school year beyond June 9 because high school graduations are already set, nor do they favor going to school on Saturdays.
Brads said days at the end of the current school year are “dead days because of SOL (Standards of Learning) assessments. They’re not an instructionally solid way to make up days.”
School Board member Scott Swortzel wondered about Saturdays as makeup days, but Brads and Busher said attendance is poor on Saturdays, which make them poor days academically because teachers have to repeat the same instruction, plus the poor attendance negatively affects the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and Average Daily Membership (ADM). “When we have kids come to school, we want as many as possible,” Busher said.
That’s another reason the administration wants to shy away from having school on the Monday or Friday of spring break—they would expect poor attendance.
Brads said he doesn’t believe using Memorial Day as a makeup day will have much effect on attendance. “For a number of years, when we didn’t have Memorial Day off, attendance was about normal,” he said.
The discussion about spring break prompted School Board Chairman Mike Beahm to lament, “Attending school has become secondary to having fun.”
The school administration recommended against using Monday, Feb. 15 as a makeup day. Students were scheduled to be out for the Presidents Day holiday, but teachers and staff were scheduled to work as an in-service day and for parent-teacher conferences. It’s also kindergarten registration day.
Brads noted these changes are dependent on the weather and the board may have to revisit the calendar when it meets again in March.