Good Friday, Saturdays will be snow make-up days for Wake schools
Posted March 3, 2015 7:24 p.m. EST
Updated March 4, 2015 5:58 p.m. EST
Cary, N.C. — Wake County students will head to school on Good Friday, as well as one Saturday each in April and May, to make up dates missed due to last week’s snow storms.
The dates were approved during a school board work session on Tuesday. School board Chairwoman Christine Kushner said a final decision on which Saturdays could be made “within the next day or so.” The Saturdays would be full school days.
School officials knew their decision would not be popular with everyone.
"No matter when we schedule, I know we are going to have conflict," said Cathy Moore, the district's deputy superintendent for school performance.
And they were right.
"Twitter erupted with very negative responses," said Sophia Walsh, a senior at Apex High School. "A lot of us have family commitments that have been set for a while, and if we miss those school days, they count as absences and they are unexcused."
Reaction on the social media website included:
- "So you are making Christians go to school on Good Friday, the day Jesus died on the cross," wrote @elisahaire.
- "Good Friday is the lord's day, so no," wrote @kake_mix.
- "It is beyond disrespectful to schedule a makeup day on a religious holiday. Do you expect kids to come on Easter too? I'm disgusted," wrote @cristinm.
"That is a very important day for a lot of people," Walsh added.
The decision, school leaders said, was the best solution to have the same make-up days across nine different school calendars.
"Again, parents have made plans and whatever day we pick there is going to be conflict," Kushner said. "We are looking for the least disruptive solution."
Wake County schools previously announced that students will attend a full day of school on March 6 and April 17, both former early-release days, to make up snow days from Feb. 17-20. All three of the new make-up days also will be full school days, not half-days, as is usually the case when school is held on Saturdays.
During Tuesday’s school board meeting, Superintendent Jim Merrill explained the district’s decision process in whether to close or delay schools due to weather.
“While we prefer to make the call early in the evening to accommodate family schedules and to hit the deadlines of most of the media outlets, forecasts don’t always allow for that,” he said. “In those cases, we repeat the sequence all over again, either after sunset when temperatures drop below freezing or in the middle of the night if necessary.”
Merill’s comments came as Wake County and other school districts were criticized by parents for their handling of recent weather school closures.
Wake County schools received complaints after the district announced school closures about three hours after other Triangle school districts made similar decisions on Feb. 18. Parents also complained about the tone of the district’s Twitter messages, which some said seemed more condescending than serious, as many awaited a decision from the state’s largest school district.
On Feb. 24, most school districts were open as snow began falling. Moore County Schools was open for a full day. Schools in Durham and Wake counties originally opened, but canceled classes by 7:30 a.m. while some students were already on buses. Students in Nash-Rocky Mount Schools made it to class, but were dismissed from school by 9:45 a.m.
In Wake County, deciding whether to close schools involves multiple conversations with the state Department of Transportation and other agencies to determine road conditions, as well as a follow up conference call at 4 a.m., said Merrill, who added that officials consider the safety of school busses and high school drivers.
“Most folks think, ‘Well the buses can roll,’” he said. “It’s the student driver who has no experience, has only been behind the wheel in some cases for a month or two, and they sometimes start driving at 6:45 in the morning. We consider the fact that it takes almost three hours to deliver students via buses. Three hours to get them back home again also.”
Making that decision, at times, can be a guessing game, Merrill said.
“The conditions of primary roads, secondary roads, subdivision streets and dozens of bus loops all enter into the equation,” he said. “Sometimes we’re right on it, we hit it well. Sometimes we don’t, and that’s especially true when the weather forecast leaves everyone guessing, as occurred a few days ago.”
Merrill said he sympathized with parents regarding their frustrations with late decisions on school closures.
“Ask any parent if a few hours’ notice is enough time to change child care plans,” he said. “You’ll get the same reply from us when it comes to changing the routine of a school system.”
In other school board business:
- Broughton and Athens Drive high schools will become overflow schools for Enloe High School, the school board approved unanimously. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard will be the dividing line determining which school students attend. The decision impacts students in all grades, but does not affect magnet application students.