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Spotsy, K.G. look to make up time

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On the eve of another possible snow, the Spotsylvania County School Board on Monday night once again took up the issue of lost instructional time.

With a 5–2 vote, the board voted to change this Friday and June 12 from half days to full days at the elementary and middle school levels.

Amanda Blalock, from Lee Hill District, and Baron Braswell, from Battlefield District, cast the dissenting votes. “March 28 is this week,” Blalock said. “I really struggle with making that change so rapidly.”

She said that even though she understands the tough situation staff were in, having to make the recommendation, teachers have already lost a lot of planning time and were counting on that day.

Blalock and Braswell were in favor of changing June 12 and June 13 into full instructional days. However, staff said that they wanted to keep June 13 as an option for the future since snow was still in the forecast and additional time might be lost.

In King George County, meanwhile, the School Board learned Monday there will be only minor changes to accommodate lost instruction time because students already spend more time in class than the state requires.

The National Weather Service has issued a winter weather advisory, saying that 1 to 3 inches of snow could hit between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. today.

In Spotsylvania, the division must meet the state minimum requirement of 990 hours of instructional time. With days lost already, the elementary and middle school levels did not meet that standard.

Since winter break, students in Spotsylvania have only had 33 full days of school. Only two complete weeks of school were attended in full. So far 15 days have been canceled and 10 days have been delayed due to cold, ice and snow. Two days were lost and two delayed since the board’s last meeting, when it voted to add 25 minutes to the end of the school day to recapture time.

Previously, the board made March 7 and April 4, which were originally scheduled as half days, into full days.

Jennifer Belako, director of teaching and learning, said staff at the elementary and middle school levels were surveyed quickly after the last snowstorm, an the majority of principals favored the March 28 and June 12 option.

Belako and Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Carol Flenard also explained to the board why additional time would not be added in high schools. Those schools already have more instruction time, since students do not have recess and other time out of instruction like the other levels during the school day.

High schools also did not have as many half days scheduled in the original calendar and still meet the minimum state time requirement.

Belako and Flenard said staff are beginning to talk about next year’s calendar this week.

Member Dawn Shelley, from Chancellor District, said, “We are doing what we think is best for students. Sadly it is not going to make everyone happy.”

Other options considered were using Memorial Day, one day of spring break and adding an additional day to the end of the year.

Blalock said the Memorial Day and spring break options would have low attendance and that the division, “is just trying to make up time now.”

In King George, students won’t have to make up too many snow days. The division’s students already spend more time in the classroom than the state mandates, said Kristine Hill, coordinator of instruction.

Students lost a holiday in February and will lose a teacher work day scheduled for March 31. All students will have a full day instead of an early release on June 12 and elementary and middle school students will have a full day on June 13.

Students also started attending class for three more minutes each day starting Monday.

The actual school day didn’t get longer, though. High school students lost three minutes of flexible time, middle school students lost two minutes between classes and one minute of lunch, and elementary school students lost three minutes of lunch.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976