School Board Scraps Part of Thanksgiving Week Off: 2 Make-Up Days Scheduled That Week
FlaglerLive | October 18, 2016
Hurricane Matthew continues to claim victims, this time in the form of days off for students and faculty in Flagler County schools.
The Flagler County school district and its students were looking forward to a week off at Thanksgiving. This year had finally restored that week off, after previous years had truncated the time off to half a week to accommodate a schedule starting late in August.
Now, that week off will be scrapped again: the school board Tuesday evening voted to use the Monday and Tuesday of Thanksgiving week, November 21 and 22, to make up for the days lost to Hurricane Matthew. Two other days will be made up in march and April, on less sensitive days, though one of them, March 10, falls on the Friday immediately before the week off for spring break, and is usually a low-attendance day as many families, if not faculty and staff, opt to start their break early.
The board voted for the changes, 4-1, with Janet McDonald in opposition.
The district lost four days to Hurricane Matthew, and one day to Hurricane Hermine earlier in late August and early September, for a total of five lost days. By law, “we have to have 180 days of school or 900 hours of instruction,” Superintendent Jacob Oliva said. “We missed five days of school which means we won’t have 180 days.” For students on a block schedule in high school he said, the five lost days “is the equivalent of 10 days of instruction.” Simply adding five days at the end of the year “would be a disservice to those students.”
The district made up the first of those five days on Oct. 14, soon after Matthew passed through. That was supposed to have been a teacher work day.
But for students across the district, end-of-course exams make it critical to have as many instructional days scheduled before those exams, which means that just adding five days at the end of the school year, in May and June, was not an option. Adding a minute or two to each period was not an option, either, Oliva said, because it wouldn’t have been meaningful instructional time that benefits the students, as full instructional days do.
The district’s calendar committee met and, in School Board member Andy Dance’s words, “agonized” over the issue. There were many options, but few logical options that benefited students—as opposed to vacation schedules and desire for time off. “We went through this like a chess game,” Vern Orndorff, the deputy superintendent, said. “This is the best scenario under the situation that we have, to support statutes, the teachers and our students.”
“None of the options are the best, and when we look at what is the best we think this is the best option for our students and our families,” Oliva said.
Board members discussed the issue with a little agony of their own. “These are the kinds of situations I drive staff nuts on, trying to find that alternate,” Dance said. “I had a ton of input on social media trying to come up with alternates, and like Superintendent Oliva said, there’s probably not a good solution, somebody is suffering when you go one way or the other. The focus has to be on what’s good for the students.”
Colleen Conklin, who chairs the board, said the change is in response to an historic storm. But she said the discussion revealed a couple of issues that the calendar committee should address next. “I know in the past we used to identify possible hurricane days,” Conklin said, recommending that such days be restored. “We’ve kind of been spoiled, we haven’t had any kind of situation in a long time.” Just as notably, she said, the difficulties over the calendar show to what extent the Flagler school district in particular is down to the strict minimum on instructional hours, robbing it of the ability to build more flexible time through the year without having to drastically alter the calendar. In other words, b y adding a few hours of instructional time along the way, as a norm, the district could in the future more easily forego some make-up days without violating the law, or falling below the 900-hour minimum.
In Flagler, Conklin said, “we are down to the minute. At some point we need to have a conversation, and obviously it’s going to entail the budget, but we need to have a conversation on instructional time for middle and high school.”
See the full new school calendar below. It is no longer a draft, as it was approved by the board tonight.