Rockdale's snow day make-up plan draws ire of community

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

CONYERS — Making up last week's snow days over winter break is going to be stressful for many Rockdale County families — students, teachers, parents and even youth pastors.

Dozens of residents packed Thursday's Rockdale County Board of Education meeting to express their concerns with using that time.

"I couldn't believe somebody would change something of that magnitude in such a short time frame," said resident Jeff Long.

Rockdale County Public Schools teacher Krista Dugas said she understands the severity of losing five days, but the rescheduling of them over winter break, which was slated for Feb. 14 to 18, is "unfair to everyone involved."

"You can't cancel a vacation without losing some sort of money," she said. "There are other ways to do it."

Fellow teacher Kim Mathis said she was upset that teachers were not consulted in the decision-making process.

Several area churches have planned youth retreats and ski trips over the break, and the rescheduling of the missed time has put stress on students wanting to take the trips and youth pastors losing money and chaperones.

"We've always tried to work very closely with the school system; we are constantly working around school calendars," said Mark Walker, a youth pastor at Rockdale Baptist Church, who said the church could lose between $1,250 and $2,000 if they canceled their trip. "Summers have gotten shorter since you went to a balanced calendar, and we can't always get everything in over the summer. We desperately need this."

He said it's hard to adjust to such a change in just a few weeks.

Although students personally don't stand to lose a lot of money, many are still feeling stress over the situation.

"I really feel ... that there should be other options to consider," said David Rosemon, a Heritage High School sophomore who could lose $50 by not taking a ski trip with his church youth group. "It is a community; it is a democracy. ... It really impacts pretty much everyone in the county."

But it's not all about money — it's about learning, too, for some.

Briana Cowles, a student from the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology, said losing just one day in class at the Magnet School is like losing a week of class in some other programs. But she and her family had already planned to take a trip together over the break before her dad is deployed for a year and a half to Afghanistan.

"It is unnecessary," she said, crying, about the make-up days.

In the end, the school board approved in a 5-2 vote that students and staff members would have to make up last week's missed days during the February break. But Rockdale County Public Schools Superintendent Samuel King said any staff or students who would experience a hardship would be allowed to make up work without being penalized.