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Spotsy schools add back time

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Spotsylvania County elementary and middle school students will attend school for full days on March 7 and April 4, which were originally scheduled as half days, to make up for some of the time lost to inclement weather.

The School Board voted unanimously Monday evening to add the additional six hours of instructional time to the calendar.

Virginia requires a minimum of 990 instructional hours per year from school divisions.

Spotsylvania originally had planned for 1,080 hours of instructional time this academic year. The division missed 11 days and delayed the beginning of school four times so far.

After already making up some of the lost time, Spotsylvania was still 61 hours short of its own original plan as of Monday, but still above the state minimum.

“This is not a discussion about meeting the state minimum,” said Superintendent Scott Baker. “This is about engaging staff at all levels for how to recoup the important instructional time we missed.”

Currently, if Spotsylvania high schools lose another 14 hours, they will fall to the minimum. For middle and elementary schools, it’s 11 hours.

The additional time approved Monday will only affect elementary and middle schools, since the originally scheduled half days were only at those levels.

Staff polled members of each school and 69 percent of those who responded were in support of making March 7 and April 4 full days.

In contrast, 13 percent were in favor of adding 20 minutes to the end of school days to recoup time.

If more instructional time is missed, the option of adding 20 minutes to the end of the school day for a set period of time will be considered.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, Peter Pfotenhauer, Spotsylvania Education Association president and Ni River Middle School teacher, said he supported the option of changing the half days into full-days. He said at the secondary level, adding a few minutes of time to each class does nothing for instruction and only functions to meet state standards.

School Board member Bill Blaine ultimately voted to support the recommended calendar change, but questioned whether taking away planning time from teachers was a prudent move.

“Good planning and development helps to use time you do teach more effectively,” he said.

Member Amanda Blalock said that the decision was one no one likes to make, but she sided with the solution preferred by teachers.

“Adding to days and messing with spring break should be last thing we do,” Blalock said.

More inclement weather is in the forecast this week.

“Watching weather over next week there is the possibility that we will miss additional time,” Baker said. “It could be in two weeks from today; we have to consider the other option, as well.”

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976