UPDATED How We Will Make Up Missed Days March 17 and 18 UPDATED

Alas!  It appears that the inclement snow weather may be finally behind us.  Unfortunately, due to the fact that we closed school on March 17 and 18, we have to make-up about 11 more hours of instruction to be in compliance with the law at GES.

The school board and I discussed this issue publicly in our meeting on March 25. Additionally, we have been discussing the situation with our leadership team.  Since we have already added 7 make-up days and extended our school year, it is our hope to create a schedule that does not require additional days.  The board decided not to act on this matter in order to gain more input from our families and to make certain that the storm we had last week did not require additional closures.

Our Proposal

At the school board meeting on April 8, we plan to propose an additional 20 minutes each day for the remainder of the year at GES only.  We have asked Mrs. McCay to work with her team to outline a proposal for adjusting the schedule in a manner that is most beneficial to students and families. Our proposal will be to add 10 minutes to the start and 10 to the dismissal of each day at GES beginning April 21st, accordingly:

  • GES start time: 8:10 AM
  • GES dismissal: 3:25 PM

Why GES Only?

Our principals have indicated that they continue to be concerned about needing more instructional time at all schools; however, due to the fact that we are running after-school tutoring programs at all schools for the remainder of the year, we are reaching the students that need additional support heading into our “testing season.”

This issue was discussed thoroughly during the most recent school board meeting, but essentially GES had been observing a shorter day all along. Due to traffic concerns in the mornings on Route 6 (which we have since resolved), GES had been asked years ago to dismiss earlier than the other schools. The extraordinary number of missed days this year have impacted GES differently simply because GES had fewer instructional hours to begin with.

Our recent plans to regain the lost time brought all schools into compliance, but the March 17 and 18 days left GES with a deficit of about 11 hours.

We deliberated this issue extensively. We considered all options, including adding time evenly at all elementary schools, adding time in the afternoon only, using days at spring break, etc. Ultimately we asked Mrs. McCay to lead the GES staff in establishing a recommendation that would bring GES into compliance. Given all considerations, our decision is to recommend the additional time at GES only for the remainder of the year, since the other schools are already in compliance.

What About the Waiver?

Many parents and teachers have asked us why we did not apply for a waiver to the state board of education.  Essentially, we were notified that our request would likely be denied because we had not taken days from Spring Break (even though we were credited for considering additional days in June) and had not considered weekend dates.  Until we have exhausted all other options, we would likely not be approved.  It is important to note that the state board has only ever approved one request and it was for one day.

Your Feedback is Critical!

I know these decisions are difficult, but we want your feedback prior to approval on April 8.  Parents, please feel free to contact me directly, reply to the blog, or email a school board member.  Faculty/Staff, we will continue to discuss this at our weekly leadership meetings, so please make sure your principal knows the feelings or concerns from your team about this proposal and/or feel free to contact me directly.

Let’s all hope this is truly the end and that we have an excellent year of weather next year! As a side note, our school board is also approving the calendar for next school year on April 8 and we have built in many more snow days.  Please review the draft in the board agenda packet (available Thursday, April 3) and let us know what you think!

33 comments

  1. Has it been considered to hold make up days into spring break? We haven’t seen anywhere where this was posted / mentioned as a possibility. Going into spring break is no different than going into summer, at least from where we see it, outside looking in.

  2. I think this proposal will be the most effective way to make up the hours missing for GES. As discussed at last school board meeting, taking days at Spring Break will effect even more families that have made vacation plans. In addition, students whose families have made plans would not be coming to school if make up days were added at Spring Break. Our after school tutoring programs as well as Smart Block at GHS seem to be effective in meeting the needs of students who need extra help. And I am confident that our teachers are doing as much as possible during class time and after school to prepare students for SOL and AP testing. Thank you for all you have done in creating the most effective makeup schedule for GCPS families.

  3. I think adding two days into spring break would be more beneficial and productive than adding an extra 20 minutes to the school day. What can the kids get out of 10 extra minutes in the morning and 10 in the afternoon after all? Plus, the kids are already being dropped off quite late in the afternoon and therefore by the time they get started and finished with homework there’s barely any time for some good free playing…

  4. Maybe I’ve missed it somewhere but why is only GES being affected? My kids go to Randolph. Trying to understand the logic of why one ES would have extended days but not the other.

    1. Cristina, thanks for your note. I have added a few sentences of explanation above. GES was dismissing earlier than the other two elementary schools. This year, because we missed so many days the schools’ instructional time was brought down to the point of potentially missing the 990 required hours. That hasn’t happened in a very long time, so I imagine this wasn’t a consideration in the past. GES would have actually dipped below the 990 had we not made the extended year and day adjustments. The two extra days we missed in March brought GES out of compliance again without an adjustment. The other two schools, because they logged more instructional hours throughout the year, were not impacted by the March days in the same way.

  5. I would rather take two days off of spring break. Two full days seem more meaningful then extending the day again and trying to piece together additional time.

  6. If it’s only the county seat elementary school, it appears biased to favor one school in the county for additional instruction over other schools as all schools were equally affected by the weather. This would seem to be against the principles and laws that regulate the public school system, and I assume you have considered the legal risks of such a decision.

    We would like to see how you propose all schools meet the same requirement so that the student and tax payer in each school district are treat equally.

    I’m happy to engage in more dialogue if if misunderstood your original proposal.

    1. As I understand it from prior posts, the school day at GES was shorter than at RES or BES to begin with, so they did not have the same number of instructional hours, or as much “buffer” time, in the schedule as the other two elementary schools. That’s why GES has been disproportionately impacted by the missed instructional time.

  7. Back-tracking and cutting Spring Break a little over a week away is a non-starter. That was considered and dismissed awhile ago; ship has sailed. If you like your Spring Break, you can keep your Spring Break; thank you, we will enjoy it!

  8. Days are too long as it is. The rush to get home, get homework done and get ready for softball/baseball and dinner in there somewhere is too much on the kids. They are exhausted by the end of the day. Since everybody won’t be happy ever, I say add two more days at the end of the year and be done with it.

    1. This is a great idea! We have plans for Spring Break that we aren’t going to cancel, therefore our kids wouldn’t be there if they took 2 days anyway…as I assume most wouldn’t.

  9. For future reference if we ever have another ridiculous weather system come through again, Spring break should definitely be used. To go too much later in the day and extra in the summer is a waste of time especially for the elementary level. I totally understand the GES difference. A lot of us did not know they were even getting out 10 min. earlier than the other two elementary schools. These children start shutting down after a certain time and need outlets. I know people have fought for years about wanting their spring break, but if the school system puts it on the calendar a year earlier then families will know not to schedule vacations during that time, just in case. Plus, spring break should be used BEFORE adding on to the end of the year. The kids need their summer, especially after meeting the demands that are put upon their shoulders in school these days. They need that break. Not everyone can have their cake and eat it too. There have to be sacrifices but summer should not be one of them.

  10. I am all for having school for two makeup days during Spring Break. I think if you poll the parents, there are not near as many people going away on trips as one may think. If a few kids miss those two days, so what? Kids miss time all the time for various reasons. Also, this time will be more productive than twenty minutes added into the day.

  11. Adding hours to the school day makes sense once. Since that has already been done it seems like we are looking at the law of diminishing returns. If our primary goal is to simply ‘check the box’ and meet the hour requirements then extending the day yet again is probably the quickest path. If our primary goal is to maximize our kids learning experience while also meeting hour requirements than adding days seems more appropriate. My vote is to add days either from spring break or at the end of the year rather than extend the day yet again.

  12. Thank you, Dr. Lane, School Board, and GES staff for coming up with a creative proposal. Since GES needs the missed hours due to shorter days this looks like the most practical solution. I would imagine it is also a more cost effective solution over opening all schools for two extra days.

    1. I completely agree with this. In addition to all who want to carve out part of Spring Break, this is exactly the way I’ve felt about the 2 week break at Christmas. I’ve always wished for a shorter break, and let some of those days be banked time.

  13. Providing additional days at the end of the school year seems the most plausible. It is my understanding that is the justification for GCPS waiver for beginning school 2 weeks earlier than the surrounding counties (kings dominion law). Personally I would like to see GCPS begin after Labor Day, and begin to create that additional 10 minutes a day at the beginning of the school year in anticipation for possible make-up days. Then already have parents prepared for the possibility of missed holidays, teacher work days, etc., for make up instructional time. Many of the county’s resident work in the surrounding counties and this would become much more convenient to follow similar school calendars.

    I appreciate that Dr. Lane & Dr. Gretz have invested much thought and time is considering all options to assure a positive learning experience for all GCPS. I also respect that they have look outside of the box, and are open to the idea that each school does not have to be treated as a cookie cutter design. If GES is primarily affected, and the school staff and parents are able to make this work great. Also in the grand scale of 13+ years of school, my child will be ok for missing 10 minutes of a school day.

  14. Your solution for making up the last two missed days strikes a good balance between making up needed hours while not further extending the school year. Thank you for the careful, thorough consideration you have clearly given this matter. I’m hopeful additional days are not added to the school calendar for next year. This has not been a typical winter for this area in terms of snowfall….can’t help but think of all the unnecessary instructional time built into prior year calendars. If, however, this winter is indicative of winters to come then perhaps the county will consider investing more into clearing the roads. One inch of snow should not result in school closure.

  15. I agree with the plan. We are too close to spring break to change it; many families already have plans. Next years schedule should ensure the school hours are balanced across all ES. Additionally, the schedule should include the contingency plan for excessive closures, i.e. extend school hours, extend school year, etc. This way there will be less uncertainty when excessive closures occur.

  16. I agree with an earlier post and would bet not as many families as one would think are taking a vacation during Spring Break, and that two days should be taken from there. Summer is only 2 months away – why do the kids need a week break after all the time they have had off over the last two months. Adding 10 minutes here and there cannot make that much difference to the kids learning in a day. Starting GES 10 minutes earlier will never really do any good because ultimately by the time the kids get to school and settle down, they will probably be on the original time schedule. You also do not state if the bus schedules will be moved up by 10 minutes or how this extra 10 minutes in the morning will happen. Will parents have to drop off 10 minutes earlier? This leads me to the next question…. why in the world did Goochland County ever develop the “alternate bus routes” for weather conditions this past winter? It was NEVER used. There were plenty of snow days that this new route schedule could have been implemented but it never was, and because of this, more snow days were added. Why take the time to put something in place that you never planned to use or even try to use? There were quite a few snow days where the main roads were clear and these alternate routes should have worked. All being a mute point now, but I do hope the County figures out how to make use of it one day. As a working parent, you made it very challenging to balance work and our children’s care. Resolution to problems like this are never easy so I hope you take a long look at the situation overall and come to the best conclusion. Whatever it is, we will all conform and deal with it in the end. We may or may not like it, but we have no other choice.

  17. Thanks to everyone for this great feedback. I find myself wanting to respond to every comment, but I think the conversation will be more accessible to folks as the log in and review the thread for me to address these issues in general here.

    Regarding next year, we will ask the board to approve the calendar next Tuesday. You will be able to see the draft as part of the April 8th agenda (if it isn’t live yet, keep checking as we post it to the public the Thursday before the board meeting). We have included several additional make up days, including spring break days should we have another year of extreme circumstances again. We have also created a schedule in which all three elementary schools begin and dismiss at the same time, proposing an 8:20 start time and 3:10 dismissal (8:15 and 3:20 for GMS and GHS). This will allow for ample instructional hours above the minimum 990.

    Regarding this year’s situation, the board has deliberated the options extensively. Our leadership team has as well and we have given top priority to the needs expressed by our instructional leadership and principals, who have each led discussion to determine the sentiment of the faculties. Spring Break, specifically, was a topic of considerable discussion during the March 25 board meeting. Every option has been given tremendous attention, but ultimately we have sought to strike a balance that first provides what our instructional leaders indicate our students need, while creating minimal disruption to families’ schedules and honoring what’s in the best interest of children, developmentally.

    I am confident that our proposal for making up the March 17 and 18 days strikes this balance, keeping instructional needs first.

    As an aside, one comment above mentioned the county’s attention to snow removal. It’s important to know that Goochland does not have its own snow removal service. We rely solely on VDOT to treat our roads during inclement weather. We have a strong relationship with the local VDOT personnel and we talk with them often when road conditions are challenging. Ultimately, however, the teams that treat the roads in Goochland report to the state, not to the county.

    Our own maintenance staff members clear the school campuses during snow/ice events, and I hope you’ll agree that they do an extraordinary job. They are prompt and efficient; our schools are typically cleared and open within a day of a snow/ice event. The roads, however, are not within our control.

    On behalf of the board and leadership, I want to thank you for your investment in our schools. This feedback is exactly what we need to continue to partner with you to make great decisions for our students, staff and families.

  18. One additional response –

    Regarding the alternate snow routes, these require that specific main artery roads remain clear and safe for transport. While I agree that there were days we would have implemented the alternate routes if those artery roads had been clear, the fact is that they were not clear. I drove them myself as did my staff. My primary rule is that if I wouldn’t put my own child on a bus transporting on an unsafe road, I won’t put yours on one either. While we all may not agree on the assessment the staff and I make after driving the roads and talking with the Sheriff and Rescue responders, you can be assured that we take both the urgency to keep students in school AND the absolute necessity to keep children safe seriously.

    If ever we are forced to make a decision between one of those two goals as we were this year, you can be certain we will ALWAYS choose safety.

    Great feedback everyone!

  19. First of all I would like to thank you for handling this huge task so open minded and considerate of the families of GCPS. I think what we have realize is that no solution is going to make everyone happy and back lash is just going to happen. Dr. Lane if you and the staff at GES feel that the extra 20 minutes a day resolves the issue at hand than that’s what it should be. My only suggestions would be for our future calendar. Personally I think starting school in August is great it gives our kids the instructional time needed to prepare for SOL’s. Days easily added to our school year would be •going the Wednesday before Thanksgiving with a 1pm dismissal •going the days in between Christmas and New Years •using Spring Break days ( I would suggest a long weekend as an option if it came to this maybe a 1 dismissal on the Thursday before Easter and that Friday would be the break) This revision would give us 5+ days depending on how Christmas and New Years falls. After these days are used and our normal built in days are used then extending the school year should be considered. Our objective is providing instructional time to prepare our kids for SOL’s. These kids are SOL taught because of the states regulations. Anything after that very few will be interested much less absorb it to their benefit. The middle/high school would benefit from the days added at the end of the year due to exams but the elementary students do not benefit as much. I know parents and staff like their 2 week Christmas break and the extra day before Thanksgiving and Spring break but the calendar is not about making holiday plans easier its about providing the instructional time our kids need. I am a lifer here in Goochland and parents were never asked their opinions about the calendar and what I have proposed is how it use to be done. No one ever thought about it or was in a tizzy about it either. The school year was set by the school board and you went to school. Although the consideration of parents and staff feelings are great it’s not required to make these decisions. If you have a vacation that you want to go on with your family at it is what’s best for your family take it. If it were me I would. We have to understand that not all families take vacations much less multiple ones in a years time. As many of us that do there are 2x the amount that don’t. You can purchase the travel insurance for your vacations. It covers changes in school calendars plus a boat load of other stuff. Just a suggestion to prevent any loss of money due to inclement weather issues in the future.

    Sorry for being long winded but we do have these options and the opportunity is now to implement them for our future calendars. Thank you again for all of your hard work and the careful thought in making all of the decisions you have to make.

  20. On the issue of making up instructional time, I wish to know what provisions for additional instructional time are going to be made for the high school students who will be taking the Advanced Placement tests in the first two weeks of May?

    Does not Goochland County Public Schools want to see their high school students perform well on these exams? My daughter has missed about 17 days in the 2-credit AP Biology course and at least 8 or 9 days n AP US History. How will this instructional time be made up to help all Advanced Placement students slated to take the exams to be successful? Getting a 4 or 5 on the exam can make all the difference for students as they pursue college credit for their coursework.

    While it’s great that GCPS is offering more AP classes and enrolling more students in them, please support them as well during this extraordinary year. My thinking is in line with the recommendation from the 2011 report from The College of William and Mary on Outcomes-Based Evaluation of the AP Training and Incentives Program, “While enrollment has increased substantially in program schools, “VASS [Virginia Advanced Study Strategies] should strive to focus more resources on improving the scores of students. Additional efforts should be taken to ensure that students not only enroll in AP courses, but also earn qualifying scores on exams.”

    I understand that some thought has already been given to this issue, but I haven’t been informed of any options so far. I do know that on his own one AP teacher has implemented additional instructional time.

    I suggest time during Spring Break, Saturday classes, afterschool time and/or use of Focus Block time. This is an urgent matter. The AP exam schedule is established by College Board and cannot be changed. Goochland does not have a good track record with student performance on AP exams. The students have missed days and days of instructional time. Please figure out a plan to give students in AP classes extra instructional time.

    1. My daughter has attended 2 Saturday sessions already for her AP classes and has stayed after school since the beginning of the school year for additional instructional time. She is taking Biology at J Sarg this year through the dual enrollment program so I can’t speak directly about that course but I know these things have been going on for other AP courses. Good Luck!

  21. Thanks so much for your question, Mrs. Reynolds. We have recently allocated money to support teachers’ efforts in providing additional time to these students on Saturdays and/or after school. While we have not required these sessions, there are several teachers who have been using these times to give the needed support to students.

    I would refer you and other parents with similar concerns to Mr. Newman, GHS principal, who can give added detail regarding the times these sessions are available to students. I know these sessions have been implemented and teachers are currently providing this support.

    Please let me know if I can help facilitate your acquiring this information.

  22. Instead of making the day go further into the afternoon, why not do 8:00 AM start time and leave the dismissal at the already designated 3:15?

  23. Instead of making the day go further into the afternoon, why not do 8:00 AM start time and leave the dismissal at the already designated 3:15? But looking at this, how much are the kids going to grasp from the extra time on these days. There is already SO much time spent at the school and then applying bus travel time as well.

    I agree in the thinking that adding a Saturday or two would quickly fix the problem rather than adding additional instructional time onto every day until the end of the year. Please reconsider this extension of time.

  24. Please consider either 2 days extra in june or 2 days off spring break. These few minutes make for a very long day especially for children with long bus rides. The full days seem more sensible than the addition of minutes. Thank you.

  25. I really dont see how adding more time on our GES students can benefit them at all…its bad enough some of our kids are getting home after 4 pm now and parents are having to change their routine to make sure our kids have play time, homework, family time, baths and bedtime. I dont know why Goochland dont go back to school after labor day. Our kids will not be getting out now until a week later and honestly how much instructional time do you think they are going to get that last week (cleaning thats what they will be doing)..going forward I would hope this never happens again and days will be worked in for bad weather..2015 gotta be better!!!

  26. Since this only affects GES parents, it would be great to separate our feedback (as well as the GES teachers) for decision making purposes with respect to the current school year. Once again, there isn’t a great solution. I think going further into June is more of a check the box exercise. I do like extending the school day BUT would advocate we leave the last 20-30 minutes of the day for students to start homework – like a study hall. That would help the parents and evening schedules, and would give the teachers time to provide additional instruction to those students who need it. I believe this could be a meaningful and productive use of the time. Thanks for seeking our input.

  27. I realize that there are some who have planned their vacation for Spring break. That having been said, if a poll was taken I believe you’d find that a larger number of the student’s parents take their vacation in the Summer. Our family for example had our vacation scheduled to start when school was dismissed for the year. Given my husband’s line of work, he has to put in for that vacation in November the year prior to the vacation days he wants. Essentially, we lost our vacation because the make up days have now made it impossible for our family to take a vacation. My point is, our vacation is just as important to us as anyone who made plans for Spring break. In the future I suggest Saturday make up days spread out over the remaining months of school. Two half days two Saturdays between now and the end of school would fix this problem. If that is not something that is approved then Spring break needs to take the hit.

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