#WCPSS Whiplash

If you’re a Wake county parent, you know about the snow day make-up debacle and the Wake County School Board has likely given you whiplash over it.

Wake County Schools (WCPSS) incurred 8 days of snow days in a two-week period in February.

The first round of make-up days sucked up early release days, teacher work days and for some tracked calendar schools, tacked on a Saturday class which was promptly canceled due to weather.

School Did What The Stupid BurnsTraditional calendar schools make-up days, somehow, were harder to calculate. First the Wake School Board considered taking Good Friday as a make-up day and adding a few Saturdays.  The usurping of a religious holiday did not sit well with families and likely became apparent to the Board that this would turn ugly.

Next on the chopping block for Traditional calendar kids was Spring Break. This is what the Board ended up using.  Overall, Traditional calendar schools got the short end of the stick. Just a hunch, but one might imagine that messing with the Traditional calendar schools wasn’t somewhat intentional; most of the Wake Board seem keen on making all schools tracked calendar schools, as was the previous board, despite public protest.

The Wake County Board decided to use the first three days of Spring Break because they received ‘significant parent feedback’ that this decision was the best one. From the WCPSS website’s Make-Up Days Post:

Why are we using the first three days of spring break?

State calendar laws combined with the lateness of this year’s school closings left the school system with limited options to recover eight days of instructional time. Five of those make-up days were already decided, leaving three days to recover.

The school system explored the option of using the Good Friday April 3 holiday, one Saturday in April and one Saturday in May. But a closer review of those dates and significant parent feedback revealed numerous conflicts that compromised the quality of that instructional time. 

State law allows school systems to recover time by using teacher work days, extending early release days, using banked instructional hours and using scheduled vacation days. A decision was ultimately made to use all of those options to provide as much focused academic time as possible.

While June 9-11 are listed as teacher workdays, they are used primarily for teachers to close out the school year.

Last school year, WCPSS’s Board tacked on extra days to make up for snow days. This year? Nope — they are saving them for teachers to close out the school year.

Well, the Wake Board heard ‘significant parent feedback’ about Spring Break in the form of a petition with over 4,000 signatures in a matter of days and a grand total of signatures for the week of more than 8,000 as of the writing of this article.

The Wake Board made a statement to WRAL, which is also present on the Snow Days Make-Up post on the WCPSS site, indicating those who miss the Spring Break make-up days apparently won’t be penalized. Instead, it’s up to parents to make the best decision for their families.

“We recognize many parents make plans for spring break,” school board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said in a statement on Saturday. “But we also appreciate many more children will be right here at home and could take advantage of the only available stretch of quality instructional time left on this year’s calendar. We trust parents will make the best decisions for their families.”
WRAL, 3/10/15

What happens if we miss additional school days?

Per state law, we will be required to make up any additional missed days. The decision will be determined in part by how much time must be recovered and how many days are left in the school year.

Somehow, these statements feel like a trap.

Parents went after the WCPSS Twitter account for announcing ‘Spring Break was safe’. Folks need to remember that the WCPSS Twitter account announces mostly what is given to them by officials like the Wake Board.  The WCPSS staff pretty much threw the Twitter account under the bus:

District leaders wouldn’t say Monday if the social media message was sent in error, or should not have been sent at all. In response, they said the district will review their communications efforts and look for areas of improvement.
WRAL, 3/10/15

Some Quick ‘Calendar’ Fact Checking
State statute states that, “Each local board of education shall adopt a school calendar consisting of 215 days all of which shall fall within the fiscal year.” [READ: NC State Statue 115C-84.2.  School calendar]

WCPSS’s Board blamed the ‘late date’ of the snow days and state calendar law as the reason they went for taking out three days of Spring Break.  That is somewhat true.

The snow days in 2013-2014 school year were roughly at the same time frame, but there were less of them.

Traditional calendar schools, by current state law, have to open “no earlier than the Monday closest to August 26, and the closing date for students shall be no later than the Friday closest to June 11.”  On this year’s traditional calendar, school began on August 25th and June 12th is the closest Friday to June 11.

The NC State Statutes on School calendars in North Carolina require 1,025 hours of instruction time. That’s roughly around 185 schools days.  Teachers can only work 195 days in a 10 month period.

Let’s not forget, it’s High Schools that are really driving the calendars for the whole county:

The district’s traditional calendar – created two years in advance – lists June 9-11 as makeup dates. Officials said when they used last year’s June make-up dates, they didn’t work because state tests were already given and seniors had already graduated. School officials added that they will reevaluate makeup dates for next school year.
– WRAL, 3/10/15

According to Wake Board Member Christine Kushner, Traditional school calendars in Wake County are created two years in advance. The board will be ‘revisiting’ the calendar to increase ‘clarity’:

The district’s traditional calendar is created two years in advance. Kushner said she and the school board will review next year’s make-up days which are already listed.

“We will need to look at the process. We’ll certainly be revisiting the ’15 – ’16 school year calendar and making sure that we release it in a way that has clarity,” said Kushner.
ABC11, 3/9/15

Let’s hope the next version of ‘clarity’ includes looking at how High Schools are apparently driving the calendars in Wake County and doesn’t give parents whiplash again.

Fun Foot Note: Wake County is the largest school district in the state and the 16th largest in the country. It’s been said by many it is too big and is only getting bigger. Arguably, the time has come for it to be divided up. Don’t expect that to happen because… money!


RELATED: Angry Parents Confront Wake County School Board Over Reassignment Plan



About A.P. Dillon

A.P. Dillon is a freelance journalist and is currently writing at The North State Journal. She resides in the Triangle area of North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_
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