Wake County students returned to school Monday after four straight snow days, but some families are questioning the way their children will make up the lost time.
Students at Wake’s 48 year-round schools will go to school on Saturdays for four half-days. That’s drawing complaints from parents at Wake’s other 122 schools because their children will make up the time with four full days on weekdays that will cut into spring break and extend the end of the school year.
“I’m not saying that either option is great,” said Christina Minnish, a Holly Springs parent who formed a Facebook group called “ Fairness for ALL for 2014 WCPSS makeup days.” “I just believe that the ‘how’ should be questioned. If they’re going to have a half-day for year-round students, they should have a half-day for traditional-calendar students.”
But Wake County school officials say they’re trying to meet state requirements, keep costs down and provide students with what they’re entitled to receive.
Under state law, schools must have 185 school days or 1,025 hours in an academic year. Wake, like most school districts in the state, opts to meet the hours requirement.
School officials say they have to make up snow days for year-round schools on Saturdays because Saturday is the only day when seats are available. Most year-round schools operate on a multi-track schedule, meaning different groups of students are in class for all but two weeks of the year: Christmas break and the first week of July.
Families at the year-round schools are told from the beginning that makeup days will be on Saturdays.
But the makeup days at year-round schools are only 3.5 hours, compared with 6.5 hours on a normal day. No breakfast or lunch is served. There is no recess or club activities.
The Saturdays are kept short because it’s a six-day week for students, staff members and parents, said Stella Shelton, a Wake County schools spokeswoman.
Wake must also pay employees such as bus drivers, teacher assistants, custodians and clerks to work on Saturdays. The shorter day lets Wake operate on a lower cost, Shelton said. Teachers don’t get extra pay for working Saturdays.
The non-year-round schools hold makeup days on weekdays when most support staff are already being paid, Shelton said. She added that scheduling makeup days on weekdays won’t result in six-day weeks.
Shelton said operating the makeup days for traditional-calendar students on a full day will let students get the full measure of instruction – including electives and specials.
Students at the year-round schools don’t get specials such as art, music and dance on makeup days. School officials say on the district’s website that “all time will be used on core instruction,” a claim that Minnish questions.
“Let’s be honest,” said Minnish, a former teacher and teacher’s assistant. “It’s a Saturday. I can’t imagine there will be a lot of primo core instruction going on.”