GCPS Staff and Community,
We are writing to share an update regarding our need for make-up days because we have missed a total of 16 days of school this year due to inclement weather. We know this extraordinary number of absences has been frustrating for many due to the need to change family and work schedules. Please believe me when I say that we value and believe in the impact of the instructional experiences that we provide every day. I promise no one wants us to be in school every scheduled day more than me! We spend a great deal of time assessing each situation individually and are committed to the safety of every child, yet we try to balance our decisions with the needs of working parents and with a recognition that our schools guarantee a warm environment and a full meal every day for some of our children. We never take a decision to close schools lightly. Let’s all hope the inclement weather is behind us.
Since my last blog post on this topic, we have missed six more days of school (total of 16) and will be required by state law and VDOE regulations to schedule more make-up days. The state law has a very specific formula for how to make-up days if the schools cannot reach 990 hours of instruction; however, I plan to make a recommendation to the school board tomorrow evening to make-up missed time to be certain that all of our schools have a minimum of 990 hours of instruction this year. Even if we were not required to make-up the time, my recommendation would be similar as our principals have shared with me that many classes will need additional time to complete the curriculum.
I will send a letter home to every family by the end of the week after the board acts on a solution tomorrow evening, but I wanted to take a moment to explain the rationale for my recommendation. Below I will provide two documents that will show how the snow days have impacted all 5 schools, but will use Goochland Elementary School as the example for this blog post since it is the school that is required to make-up the most time. My recommendation, though, will have impacts on all five schools.
The GES school day (after removing 0.75 hours per day of non-instructional time such as recess and lunch) is 5.75 hours per day starting at 8:20 every day and ending at 2:50. When multiplied by 180 school days, we have 1,035 hours built into our calendar for GES (you will see in the document below that GMS and GHS are significantly higher and would not require additional days to meet the 990 hour rule). Due to the 16 missed days of instruction, we have lost 87 hours of instruction. Additionally, we have had five 2-hour delays and two 2-hour early release days, thus we must subtract 14 more hours of instruction. If we do not miss any more days and did not do any make-up days, GES would have 929 hours of instruction this year. We have already scheduled two make-up days on February 17 and March 21, earning us 11.5 hours back for a total of 940.5.
One of the recommendations I plan to make to the board is to add five more school days to our calendar this year during the first week of June, moving our last day of school to June 6. At GES, this will add another 28.75 hours for a total of 969.25 hours. The school board also has the option to do the five make-up days over Spring Break.
Obviously, we are still not at our required 990 hours. Rather than do any additional make-up days, we plan to ask our elementary schools to add time to the end of the day to make-up the difference. We would like to see all of our elementary schools start and stop at the same times, thus if approved, beginning March 21, we are recommending that all elementary schools start at 8:20 and end at 3:15. We are also going to have to eliminate all early release days for the rest of the year at elementary schools (i.e. the last day of school), while maintaining the early release at GMS/GHS during the last week of exams. To avoid this issue in the future, we are also asking the school board to consider making these times at the elementary schools permanent. By adding this additional time every day, GES will add 22.5 hours of instruction, for a total of 991.75 hours (allowing us to be in compliance with the 990 rule).
We have heard from many folks that they are concerned about extending the school year because of a lack of instructional focus after SOLs, so for this reason, we will also move our testing calendar back one week. The weekend of high school graduation will remain the same for Seniors (even though the time/date could move one or two days forwards or backwards due to a new scheduling conflict with John Paul Jones Arena, but our principal is speaking with Seniors and families and this is not for certain yet, but we will let you know ASAP!!). We will likely waive the additional week for graduating seniors only, but those details will be determined in coordination with the high school administration. Once we receive final details from JPJ, we will make a date recommendation to the school board, hopefully tomorrow evening.
A few people have also asked me about the 140 clock hour rule for high school verified credit courses (those with SOL tests). School Board Policy IKF-R allows me to waive this requirement if our principals can submit the evidence of equivalent instruction detailed in the policy. We feel confident that we will be able to waive the 140 clock hour requirement for all verified credit courses this year, but will continue to monitor these courses with our principals.
Here are two documents that show our thinking:
Lastly, we feel it is prudent to move our MP3 (Marking Period 3 and/or 3rd Quarter) report card dates and our proposal is below:
I know this is a lot of information, but we wanted to provide as much detail as possible. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly or any of our principals or central office staff members for more detail.
We recognize the hardship this additional week could place on families that have already made travel plans for the first week of June (we certainly considered this in making our determination to avoid Spring Break). Whereas we cannot excuse all absences, we will work with families and staff members during this additional week and try to be as flexible as possible when presented with good reasons for absence.
Lastly, if we have to miss any more days and/or have a series of delayed openings due to additional inclement weather, please know that we will have to consider further make-up days or extended school days.
Again, we thank you for your understanding and patience. Many school divisions are in the “same boat” as we are and are having to make difficult decisions as well, but we value our instructional time and know that we can end the school year with continued enthusiasm. Even with the missed time thus far, this has been one of the best school years of my career and I continue to be amazed at the creativity and resilience of our staff and students.