Ordinarily, schools that shut down on a school day must make up that lost time. However, thanks to Gov. Robert Bentley’s declaration of the snowstorm as an emergency, school systems have the option of applying for an exemption to those requirements, according to local and state officials.
Local schools superintendents say they’re already asking for the exemptions.
“I filed the proper paperwork with the State Superintendent’s Office this morning,” Cleburne County Superintendent Claire Dryden said by email Monday.
The Cleburne County Schools calendar requires 1,080 hours of instruction rather than a number of days, Dryden said. So far this school year, the system has started late due to cold on three days for a total of six hours, and lost another 25 hours to last week’s storm.
But the system has 12 flexible hours built into the calendar, and with the exemption, the school system will not have to make up any time, Dryden said. If more bad weather hits, the system has scheduled days off it could use to make up missed time, she said. The next potential make-up day is President’s Day on Feb. 17, Dryden said.
At Jacksonville City Schools, the school calendar is done much the same way as Cleburne County’s, said Superintendent Jon Paul Campbell. Superintendent Matt Akin of Piedmont City Schools said the system also has extra days built into the calendar, but said he intends to apply for the waiver so his system won’t have to use those days.
Not all school systems include extra time in the school calendars. At Anniston City Schools, Superintendent Joan Frazier said there have been no snow days built into her system’s calendar for the last couple of years. If one of the schools has to take a day off, it can make up that day with Saturday school or on a scheduled vacation day, she said. But Anniston is also applying for the exemption and will not be making up the school days lost to last week’s snow, Frazier said.
The Alabama Department of Education is receiving requests for exemptions and expects to continue doing so for the next few days, state school Superintendent Thomas Bice wrote in an email. Teachers’ focus should be on the lost hours, he wrote.
“Our teachers will focus on ensuring students meet the learning goals for the year regardless of the days or hours missed,” Bice wrote. “This is in keeping with our move to a more personalized learning plan for our students.”
Local school officials echoed those sentiments. They said teachers have enough time to help students reach those learning goals and prepare for annual tests.
Campbell noted that the snow days gave some students a taste of real-world business. While many professionals used computers and other resources to work from home while snowbound, students had the option of a “digital learning day.”
At Jacksonville’s schools, all students in grades four through 12 have school-issued iPads that they can use to keep up on their lessons and contact their teachers even while they are not at school. Many Jacksonville teachers sent students home with work to do Tuesday, Campbell said.
As the program at the school system matures, digital learning days will become more common, he said.
Staff writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.