Weather lengthens school board session, shortens spring break

The Rappahannock County School Board spent most of its time Tuesday night (Feb. 11) focusing on making up the nine days that this winter’s weather has so far cost students.

Then it made plans to postpone — due to Thursday’s predicted snowstorm — the first scheduled public hearing on its 2014-2015 budget, originally to take place at a budget work session tonight (Feb. 13), to next Tuesday (Feb. 18) at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

As superintendent Donna Matthews explained, there are two ways to meet state criteria for the amount of time students must spend in school. One way is to measure the total hours students have spent in school; the state demands a minimum of 990, she said.

Several nearby counties are using that metric to avoid having to schedule extra make-up days, Matthews said. Without making up any days, RCPS will still have 1,111.5 hours of instruction, well above the state’s requirements, but Matthews said she preferred scheduling at least five makeup days, especially since both schools are still trying to raise their testing scores.

That meant using the second metric, which requires 180 days and 140 clock hours per course for a high school course credit. There was subsequently much debate among the board, as Matthews insisted the students be given at least some time off for spring break and floated the idea of adding an extra 30 minutes to the school day through April 30 (which would make up 18.5 hours, or roughly three school days).

Jackson district representative Amy Hitt felt that spring break shouldn’t be considered off-limits just because some people may have already made vacation plans, and proposed taking three days of it (March 24-26) as make-up days, adding 30 minutes to the end of each day for two months, pushing finals back slightly and adding a full day on March 20. But her motion was defeated.

The board had trouble reaching a consensus, as a more restrictive motion by Larry Grove (taking away all of spring break) failed to gain a second, while chairman John Lesinski’s motion to add four make-up days (March 20, 24-26) also failed.

It was nearly 11 p.m. before a middle ground was reached. The board unanimously decided to add March 20 as a makeup day, take three days away from spring break (March 24-26), have full days — rather than the planned early dismissals — on May 21-22, and use May 27-28 for finals. (Graduation for seniors remains scheduled for May 23).