Kingsport schools set to absorb extra snow day

Rick Wagner • Feb 21, 2014 at 8:46 AM

KINGSPORT — City school leaders are poised to absorb an extra snow day this year with a banked day, giving up extra instructional time.

However, Superintendent Lyle Ailshie said that if the system misses a sixth day or more for snow, the school board will have to reconsider what to do.

“If we happen to miss another day, we’ll have to rethink it,” Ailshie told the school board at its Thursday night work session, thanking members for reaching a consensus, one-by-one indicating support for the recommendations.

At the March 6 Board of Education meeting, the five-member BOE is to vote on a staff recommendation that the one extra snow day missed this winter — beyond the previously approved four days — will be covered using banked instructional time and will not require the addition of a student day to the 2013-14 calendar.

Ailshie said a remaining in-service day, March 7, is not a good candidate for turning into a regular instructional day because many teachers already plan to score state assessments that day.

Many more rural systems, like Sullivan County, set aside the majority of the banked days for snow from the beginning of the year. But Kingsport, which normally misses nominal snow days, this year has missed five so far. The state Department of Education must approve calendar changes such as making up snow days.

Sullivan has four designated snow days left, while Hawkins County, like Kingsport, is one over its total and will have to consider makeup options. However, Hawkins doesn’t have the option of shortening instructional time since it already has eaten up those days.

“Saturday attendance is troubling,” Ailshie said. “Graduation is set.”

Other options include extending the remaining school days even more or adding days to the end of the year, although in Kingsport’s case Ailshie said going past Memorial Day was not an option that is very palatable.

Giving up or shortening spring break is not viable either, given that some families already have planned vacations and trips during that time, school system spokesman Andy True said after the meeting.

True said the school system, by going an extra 30 minutes a school day, banks 13 days over the course of a year.

Two of those are slated for in-service, while four were set aside for inclement weather.

That will become five days if the board approves the recommendation March 6. That leaves the equivalent of seven days of extra instruction or six days if the board approves the state recommendation.

True said going to school on Saturdays was likely very low on the list of options if a sixth or more snow makeup day is needed.

On other matters, BOE member Susan Lodal said supporters of public education need to avoid becoming complacent about efforts to derail Common Core standards and/or the testing for those. Four bills targeting some aspect of Common Core will be before a House Education Committee subcommittee next week, she said.

She urged board members, teachers, parents and others who support Common Core to contact lawmakers individually. The board has gone on record supporting Common Core.

Also, Ailshie announced that although Tennessee is not making designations of Reward Schools every year, the system recently received notice that if the state did, Kingsport would have three schools on the “cusp” of being Reward Schools.

A Reward School is in the top 5 percent statewide, while a school on the cusp is in the top 6 to 10 percent. The three schools designated as on the cusp are Jefferson, Johnson and Adams elementary schools, with Jefferson doing well in both academic achievement and progress or value-added scores.

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