Thursday, March 3, 2011
School districts look at snow day options
By SUE WATSON
State Superintendent of Education Tom Burnham met with district school superintendents Monday to discuss the snow day bill signed last week by Gov. Haley Barbour.
The new law deals with how school districts may handle missed days from school due to inclement weather, natural disaster, enemy attack, or technological disaster. The bill will provide payments by the State Department of Education for the average daily attendance costs of students, for up to 10 days missed by districts due to an emergency. The alteration of the normal 180-day school year schedule in order to “forgive” up to 10 days that cannot be made up is handled on a case-by-case basis.
County superintendent of education Don Randolph said superintendents must submit a plan to make up days to their school boards, then ask for help from the state superintendent if days cannot be made up any other way.
“The board approved and we are following our original plan for making up the first six days (due to snow and icy roads),” Randolph said.
The district has two more days to make up, providing no other emergencies should arise to cause canceling school.
Dr. Burnham was to discuss both the budget and weather Monday.
Randolph said he plans to recommend to the school board to make up the remaining two days in whole days, rather than adding an hour a day to the current calendar until the missed days are made up. He prefers holding school on Saturdays, if necessary, at which time the students can use that time to review for the MC2 (state curriculum tests).
Originally, May 28 was set to be the last day for students to attend school this semester in the county school district.
The Holly Springs School District missed six days and has made up two of them, said Irene Walton, superintendent of education.
HB 1156 provides for alteration of the school year’s 180 school days and payment for up to 10 days districts may have missed only if the governor of Mississippi or the president of the United States has declared a state of emergency existed. The state superintendent of education has the authority to make a finding of whether a disaster or weather emergency was the cause of a school not operating for the contemplated school term.
Other causes for emergencies that would be lawful for dismissal of a school include an epidemic, a death, a resignation, a sickness or dismissal of a teacher or teachers because of an emergency.
Schools must hold classes for 180 days unless the local district submits and gets approval for a plan to alter the school term by the State Board of Education. Under the new law, a state of emergency does not have to be declared for relief due to inclement weather.
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