Students to attend class Saturday

By Vicki Hyatt | Jan 24, 2014
Photo by: Beth Thrift Snow blanketed many parts of Haywood County this week, including this northern Crabtree area.

Students in the Haywood County Public School System will be attending their first Saturday classes of 2014 tomorrow — weather permitting.

Associate Superintendent Bill Nolte said four days have been missed this school year because of snowy and icy roads. But the winter is young, with more projected storms ahead, so the school board policy on Saturday classes is being followed.

Classes will begin at 8 a.m. and be dismissed at noon, and lunch will be served. Buses will start the day on a normal schedule.

Given the legislative restrictions on when classes can start, Nolte said school districts where snow and ice can create problems have limited choices — do away with spring break, extend the school year farther into June or schedule some Saturday classes.

“We’re only doing this because the community has made it clear they don’t want the school to go late into June, and they don’t want to give up spring break,” Nolte said. “Part of our concern is we still have not had a traditional winter snow with a gulf low. What’s been unusual about this year is the very, very cold temperatures with pipes breaking and buses not starting.”

Part of the challenge in making a school schedule work involves not only the unknowns of weather, but the requirements concerning the number of school days, specific testing periods and a host of other rules that are frustrating for not only school administrators, but parents, teachers and the community.

In addition, many school employees have a 10-month contract, which restricts the school district’s ability to extend the school year too far into June.

Having to use a portion of the available work days for snow days puts Haywood at a disadvantage because other school districts are using those days for training teachers on new curriculum, new assessment measures or other requirements, Nolte said.

“We have way too many laws on when school starts, ends, how many days used for testing,” Nolte said. “It makes you really appreciate some of the flexibility that public charters have.”

As of Friday, the school district only has three days left that can be used for weather-related closures, which is what prompted the Saturday class option.