Warren County Public Schools students need to attend more classes to make up for time lost because of snow days.
The School Board plans to consider a proposal at its meeting Wednesday to add three days of classes to the current calendar. If the board approves the changes, students would need to attend classes on April 5, April 30 and June 18.
The division closed three days this school year - Dec. 17, Feb. 1 and Feb. 18. The division has scheduled all other inclement weather days as virtual learning days.
The 2020-2021 school calendar did not include built-in days to cover lost time due to inclement weather. Division policy requires 180 teaching days or 990 teaching hours per school year. The policy also requires that the division make up the first five days if schools close as a result of inclement weather.
Superintendent Christopher Ballenger explained by phone Monday why he still closed schools even though students were already taking most of their classes at home. Ballenger said if he needed to close school buildings as a result of inclement weather, then he would cancel classes for students. If he kept buildings open, then he would require that students attend virtual classes, Ballenger said. Even though students take most of their classes from home, some teachers still would come to the school buildings, Ballenger said.
“Some teachers still prefer to come into the building because they have everything set up there, and if I can’t open up my building, then that teacher can’t really make it,” Ballenger said. “But also if I don’t have administrators in the building, I don’t want my students or my teachers doing work either.”
When the division delayed its opening times for inclement weather, virtual classes started late on a modified schedule, Ballenger said.
School divisions typically build in snow days in their calendars. But, like many divisions in Virginia, Warren County needed to delay its start date from August to Sept. 8 in order to implement safety protocols required for reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You lose some of those weeks, which then puts you in a crunch when it comes to making sure you’re not getting out at the end of June and early July,” Ballenger said.
Warren County schools didn’t need to make up any snow days because Gov. Ralph Northam closed all divisions in mid-March as the number of COVID-19 cases continued to climb.
Typically, school divisions could use the number of hours of instruction to catch up on a missed day or two, Ballenger said.
This year, Warren County schools officials needed to figure out how to reach the required number of hours of instruction time while limiting potential exposure to COVID-19. The resulting schedule left little room for the division to make up days by using hours, Ballenger said.