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Spotsylvania gets early start on snow-day plan

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Spotsylvania County public schools won’t waste any time making up snow days next winter.

The School Board on Monday night unanimously approved a proposal to set Jan. 26, 2015, as the first snow makeup day and Feb. 16 as the second.

Snow days 3 through 7 will not have to be rescheduled thanks to banked time, and the eighth will be made up on April 3, according to the revised calendar. For the current school year, makeup days didn’t kick in until schools had missed more than five days.

A committee that included a central office administrator and two principals recommended the revised calendar. The group sent a survey earlier this year seeking input from parents and teachers.

“We just felt it was important to get the maximum amount of time for our students,” Riverbend High School Principal Troy Wright, a member of the calendar committee, told the School Board. “If we don’t make up a day, the chances are we’ll lose it. There are only so many days available to make up.”

Spotsylvania and all other divisions in the state must complete a minimum of 990 hours of instructional time per academic year.

To meet that mandate for this school year, the Spotsylvania system had to tack on an extra 25 minutes to the school day starting March 17. In addition to numerous late openings, students missed 15 full days of school because of snow and ice.

Spotsylvania Education Association President Peter Pfotenhauer urged the board not to make short-term calendar changes because of one unusual winter.

“We know that making up instructional time is important,” Pfotenhauer told The Free Lance–Star after the meeting. “But making up the first one or two days that are missed underappreciates the ability of good teachers to craft their instruction to deal with an occasional missed day of school.

“Where we truly need makeup time is after a significant amount of time has been lost to weather.”

Battlefield Middle Principal Sheila Smith, another member of the committee, said the group also believes that adding time to the school day would be beneficial. But that wasn’t part of the recommended calendar changes for next school year. She said the group wanted study that idea some more.