CMS board votes to save spring break

ahelms@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 25, 2014 

  • CMS budget forum

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Thousands of students, families and employees of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools got their spring break back Tuesday when the school board voted unanimously to skip the two makeup days that would have shortened the vacation.

April 14 and 15 had been scheduled as makeup days for the Feb. 13-14 snow closings under the calendar approved in August. But Superintendent Heath Morrison told the board CMS could meet the state minimum of 1,025 hours of instruction without holding class those days.

However, he warned that winter weather may not be over. More closings would bring back those makeup days, he said.

“We were very concerned about the loss of instructional days,” Morrison said. But faced with the likelihood of very low attendance during spring break makeups, as well as alternatives such as Saturday school, he recommended the calendar revision.

Also Tuesday, Union County Superintendent Mary Ellis said the district will avoid two makeup days by adding 11 minutes to the end of the school days for 60 days starting on the first Monday in March.

Schools across the state have seen an unusually harsh winter. CMS has lost five days to two snowstorms, along with two early dismissals and three two-hour delays because of cold, ice and snow.

Some school board members and state legislators have voiced hope that the difficulty of handling makeup days would spur changes in the state calendar law, which restricts when most schools can open and dismiss for the year. During the latest snowstorm, Gov. Pat McCrory talked about seeking a way to grant local districts more flexibility to deal with this year’s schedule.

But state education officials said most districts already have enough leeway to avoid spring break and Saturday makeup days under the current law, which gives districts the choice of holding 185 days or 1,025 hours of class.

Wake and Lincoln counties decided last week to skip some makeup days by focusing on the hours instead of days.

CMS had scheduled 180 days, at 1,080 hours. Giving up two days leaves 1,068 hours, Morrison said.

Hourly workers, such as teacher assistants, bus drivers and cafeteria workers, lost wages during the snow days. Morrison said CMS will hold two days of paid summer training to give those workers a chance to make up the earnings.

Vice Chairman Tim Morgan praised Morrison and his staff for taking time to study options. “I know people have been knocking down your door, saying, ‘When are you going to make a decision?’ 

“I live with two of them,” Morrison said, referring to his two children, who are CMS students. Staff writer Adam Bell contributed.

Helms: 704-358-5033; Twitter: @anndosshelms

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