RCPS does away with winter intercession, Newton still planning make-ups

CONYERS – Students in Rockdale County Public Schools can expect to say goodbye to their winter intercession. The Board of Education held an emergency meeting Friday afternoon and unanimously voted to use the entire week of Feb.17 to 21, and a teacher workday on March 14, as classroom days to make up for missed time due to inclement weather.

Rockdale students have missed a total of eight days so far this school year — four in January and four this past week due to Winter Storm Pax. With the prospect of students missing class time, Rockdale BOE and cabinet members formulated three different options to make up for missed instructional days.

Option one, which is the option that the board approved, maintains March 14 and Feb. 17 to 19 as instructional days. This option also implements Feb. 20 and 21 — the two remaining days students were to have off for winter intercession after the Board identified the first part of the week as makeup days for days missed in January — as classroom days, thus eliminating the break entirely. This means that students will be making up six of the eight missed days, and the remaining two days will be waived for students. Also, school staff must document eight hours of work beyond the normal school day, and May 22 has been designated as a professional learning day for staff.

For the second option, RCPS sought input from the school community through an online survey asking whether or not 30 minutes should be added to each school day from Feb. 24 until the end of the school year. However, the board did not find this option feasible for students, especially with regard to that time being divided among classes for higher grade level schedules.

“What we didn’t want to do is fragment,” said Superintendent Richard Autry. “We wanted that 30 minutes to be a block of time in which teachers could actually use that for some in-depth instruction. We didn’t want to have it broken up into five- or six-minute sessions or that sort of thing, because we didn’t see the value there.”

Although school days would have been 30 minutes longer with this option, students would have been given the entire week of winter intercession out of the classroom.

The third option would have maintained March 14 and Feb. 17 to 19 as instructional days, but Feb. 20 and 21 would have remained winter intercession days. This option would have dipped into spring break for make-up days, utilizing Apr. 7 and 8 as classroom days.

“This is normally the time when many of our families take advantage of the spring and engage in vacations — we did not feel like that was the best option,” said Autry in reference to taking away days from spring break.

Since 2011, RCPS has designated the winter intercession as an allotment of potential make-up days should the weather become inclement like it did in January and last week.

“This has been a very weird weather year,” said Rockdale BOE member Mandy North. “Who’s to say we’re not going to have more?”

The Newton County School System plans to make up for the lost time as well, but will still have a winter break from Feb. 19 to 21. According to information on its Facebook page, NCSS administrators are finalizing a make-up schedule and will present it at the Newton BOE combined meeting on Feb. 18.

Newton students have missed a total of seven days this school year. Four of those days were in January, while Pax caused them to miss three more days from Feb. 12 to 14.