Teachers, students face dilemma as snow days pile up

Many teachers used time to ‘teach’ students at home

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NORTH FULTON, Ga. – While students across the Fulton School System enjoyed a long mid-winter vacation last week, teachers and administrators were scrambling to find ways to keep students on track academically and make up the days lost to snow and ice.

So far this year, seven days of class have been missed by students, while a few additional school days were disrupted with early release and general chaos.

Fulton Schools officials waived making up the four days lost in January, but indicated any additional days off would be made up at some point before the end of the school year. So far, students have stayed home seven days because of weather.

“We haven’t decided [when to make up days] but there are several options that will be considered and forwarded to the school board as recommendations,” said Samantha Evans, communications director for Fulton Schools.

Options on the table include tacking the days onto the end of the year, using the planned teacher work day in March, adding minutes onto each day and other ways of recouping days before school ends on May 26.

Evans said the system is soliciting feedback from principals as they formulate their plans to make up days.

One event likely to remain intact is Spring Break since administration officials understand the importance of the break for parents and students. Rumors students will be required to return to school after graduation ceremonies is also unlikely for obvious reasons of trying to corral kids, especially seniors, back to school for makeup days.

The system could opt to waive the entire seven days off, based on a little-used provision in Georgia law regarding a “state of emergency.” [See sidebar]

But the bottom line is ensuring students are well prepared not only for the day-to-day coursework, but also for the upcoming CRCTs in the elementary and middle schools, and Advanced Placement tests in May.

Evans said the three weather days last week were anticipated by teachers and many made plans to continue teaching their students over the extended break.

“In many cases, teachers were reaching out and sharing assignments and trying to keep the kids engaged during the break,” said Evans.

For Thomas Washburn, who teaches the law and justice curriculum at Cambridge High School, his pre-planning began days before the snow fell, as he looked at ways to adjust his curriculum and move some items to homework.

Before the break, his plan for staying on track was presented to the students so that the expectations would be clear.

“I explained we needed to stay on target [and] we could rush through material and double up assignments when we got back, or we could do a little work each day over break [which they agreed to],” he said.

The fact that Washburn functions in a “digital classroom,” where all course content is online, made it easier to stay in touch with students and make assignments.

“The digital classroom has all the assignments and resources the students need. I was even able to send the password to parents so the students could take their vocabulary quiz online,” said Washburn, who estimates he spent about five hours each day communicating with students over the weeklong break.

For Northwestern social studies teacher Paula Perque, the class was just beginning a unit on meteorology so the weather provided a lot of teachable moments.

“I tweaked the lesson plans a bit on Monday when I knew we would be out for the week, and made it relevant to what was going on,” said Perque. “I also gave them homework to write a journal entry for each day they were gone related to the curriculum.”

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