With another winter storm in the forecast, and more inclement weather on the way, Watauga County Schools is looking ahead and planning for how makeup days will be utilized going forward into the final weeks of winter.
Watauga County Schools Superintendent Dr. Scott Elliott said that, with 11 days missed due to inclement weather so far, the school system must consider all possibilities to make up missed days and to prepare for additional schedule changes.
“When we have to cancel school due to weather conditions, we first try to use the optional teacher workdays that are typically scheduled at the end of the school year,” Elliott said. “Once we begin to deplete available teacher work days, then we utilize the annual leave days that are provided by the state. When we miss a day of school, students then come to school on one of the days that would have been a work day or annual leave day. We also utilize Saturday school as an option when we miss a day of school during the week but can safely go to school on Saturday. That prevents us from having to add days on to the end of the year.”
Elliott said along with other options, there is a possibility the system will have to consider altering spring break if stretches of severe weather continue.
“Many people have been asking me, so I think it is important that everyone realize that in a winter such as this, losing some or all of spring break is a real possibility,” Elliott said. “We try to protect spring break as much as possible, but we are pretty much at the point where it has to be an option and people should begin planning accordingly.”
Elliott said Watauga County Schools places holidays and annual leave days into the week of spring break which can be used to make up student days if necessary.
If spring break days have to be used, Elliott said makeup days would be taken from the end of the week first, and would move backward toward Easter if additional days were needed.
“We will make sure to let everyone know as soon as possible if we reach that point so families have as much time as possible to adjust their spring break plans. I always urge parents and staff to use caution when making plans during spring break and up through the middle of June,” Elliott said. “We average around 15 days missed a year, and ending school in the second to third week of June is not uncommon for our area.”
Elliott said Watauga County Schools’ calendar flexibility is limited by state legislation that sets limits on the start and end dates school systems are allowed to set.
“The school calendar law really ties our hands, and we continue to plead for more flexibility,” Elliott said. “The same rules that apply to Wake and Carteret counties just do not work for us. When the state law changed and prevented us from starting two weeks earlier than everyone else, it essentially meant that we would likely extend the year in June.”
North Carolina state law requires public school systems to start classes no earlier than the Monday closest to Aug. 26, and end no later than the Friday closest to June 11 unless the county has a waiver from those dates.
Watauga County has a one week waiver for August and can extend the year as much as needed to gain the required days and hours . School systems must complete a minimum of 185 days, or 1,025 hours of instruction.
For more information on how N.C. school calendar law, visit www.dpi.state.nc.us/fbs/accounting/calendar.
Watauga County Schools updates any changes to the school calendar the first day students return from missing school at www.wataugaschools.org/calendar.