Snow, Makeup Days Piling Up For Schools

Shenandoah County Division Cuts It Close

Posted: March 18, 2014

Ande Banks and his son, Al, 5, ride a saucer down the hill at Waterman Elementary School on Monday as other sledders make the trek back to the top. (Photos by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
Snow blankets a portion of James Madison University’s campus in Harrisonburg on Monday. A winter blast that crossed the Valley Sunday night and early Monday dropped from 7 to 14 inches of snow across Rockingham County.
Families gather on the hill at Waterman Elementary School on Monday to enjoy the fresh powder left overnight. Area schools were closed Monday, increasing the number of snow days used by local divisions.

HARRISONBURG — Central Valley students got yet another snow day on Monday, which means one fewer day to get prepared for standardized testing scheduled for the end of the year.

At least one division, Shenandoah County, is coming close to dropping below the 990 hours of classroom instruction required by state law.

Harrisonburg and Rockingham County public schools have not announced additional snow days because of the most recent storm, but the superintendents have frequently said they would continue to evaluate the need for makeup days.

Monday makes 15 snow days and 11 hours lost to delays for Shenandoah County Public Schools. Even with four makeup days added — Feb. 17, April 17 and 22 and May 6 — that gives the division just about three hours of wiggle room.

If there are no more snow days between now and the end of the year, Shenandoah County will have had about 993 hours of instruction.

Shenandoah Schools Superintendent Jeremy Raley has not yet announced further makeup days for the division. At a recent Shenandoah County School Board meeting, Raley said he planned to wait and see what kind of weather may be in store.

He stuck to that plan Monday, saying he intends to wait until the end of March to make a call on how many, if any, makeup days will be required. He expects to consult with the board about potential dates at its April 9 meeting.

It seems unlikely that students will receive a large increase in classroom time before taking the Standards of Learning tests at the end of the year. The standardized tests, required by state law, attempt to measure whether students are adequately learning required course material and are used as benchmarks for gauging how schools are performing.

“There aren’t many opportunities between now and the end of the year for snow days,” Raley said. “There’s certainly an impact to missing the number of days and hours that we have.”

He added that this is by no means a typical year; the county has taken many more snow days than usual.

Raley said he did not see spring break, which is a four-day weekend from April 18 to April 21, as a serious option. Other ideas include extending existing school days and adding days to the end of the year.

Carol Fenn, superintendent of Rockingham County Public Schools, said on Monday that she thinks the makeup days the division already has scheduled will suffice, at least for now. So far, RCPS has used or planned seven makeup days: March 7, which was previously an early release day, March 24 through 28, which is all of spring break, and April 21.

Monday marks the 15th inclement weather day for RCPS, not counting numerous two-hour delays.

Fenn said she plans to review the division’s missed days once schools are back in session.

At previous meetings, the Rockingham County School Board has discussed, at length, how decisions are made regarding snow days and how to make them up. Because some parts of the county are particularly rural and mountainous, it can take longer for those roads to be safe for buses. Administrative staff are hesitant to put buses on the road if there is any kind of risk to students.

The county has scheduled so many makeup days because board members and administrative staff feared students otherwise would not have enough instruction time before taking the SOLs.

Harrisonburg City Public Schools Superintendent Scott Kizner said he was unsure whether he would add more makeup time because of Monday’s weather. He wanted to consult with his principals before making a decision.

HCPS has had at least nine snow days and 20 hours of delays so far this year. Kizner previously announced five makeup days: April 21 and June 5, and March 13, April 8 and May 13, previously early release-days, were extended to full days.

Officials with Page County Public Schools could not be reached for comment by press time on Monday, but the district has missed more than 12 days of school.

Superintendent Donna Power announced in late February that its previously scheduled makeup days were sufficient to meet the 990-hour state minimum, with 30 hours to spare. At that point, the district had scheduled Jan. 20, Feb. 17 and March 28 and April 4 as makeup days.

Shenandoah County and Harrisonburg City schools will operate on a one-hour delay today. Page and Rockingham county schools have announced a 2-hour delay for the divisions.

Contact Kassondra Cloos at 574-6290 or kcloos@dnronline.com



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