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Schools might not make up snow days

Photo by Brian Giandelone

Photo by Brian Giandelone

CONYERS -- Local school systems won't decide until later this week at the earliest if students and staff members will have to make up school days missed this week.

Winter weather that caused hazardous icy roads and walkways forced Newton and Rockdale counties, among others in north Georgia, to close schools and government offices for part of the week. The Newton County School System announced Tuesday afternoon that schools would remain closed to students and staff today. A decision from the Rockdale County Public Schools had not been announced as of press time Tuesday.

But there is a chance schools won't have to reschedule days later this school year to make up missed days.

According to state education laws, a local Board of Education may elect not to reschedule up to four days when a school was closed due to an emergency, disaster, act of God, civil disturbance or shortage of vital or critical materials, supplies or fuel without requesting a waiver from the Georgia Department of Education.

Both Newton and Rockdale school systems said Tuesday that top administrators will meet once they are able to return to their offices to determine whether they will take advantage of that rule or decide that students and staff need to make up the days later this year.

The Newton County School System already has shortened its 2010-11 school year by six days for staff and two days for students to save about $400,000 per day.

Rockdale County Public Schools is operating on a normal 180-day student calendar and includes one built-in snow day on Friday, May 27. Cindy Ball, director of Community Relations at RCPS, said the system could save money by not running buses and using other operational services this week, but it would simply balance out if officials decide to make up the missed days later this year.

Students and staff are next scheduled to be off Monday for the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. A winter break is scheduled for mid-February and a spring break for early April. A few teacher work days also are scheduled throughout the rest of the year.

The Rockdale superintendent will make a decision to delay or close schools no later than 5:30 a.m. that school day. If Newton County schools close again, the superintendent expects to make a decision no later than 6 a.m. that day.

Once a decision is made, local system employees will begin notifying parents and staff through automated phone systems; major television stations like ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC; metro-Atlanta radio stations like Star 94 and WSB radio; and school system websites, www.newtoncountyschools.org and www.rockdale.k12.ga.us. Newton County Schools also has a Twitter page.