Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

February 2, 2013

Mercer school system marks all built-in snow days off its calendar

Tazewell eyes extending year due to lost class time

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — Heavy snow, bitter cold and flooding have combined to knock snow day after snow day off the calendars of local school systems.

Mercer County schools were closed by snow Friday due to snow and ice, said public information officer Kellan Sarles. The school system had eight snow days built into its calendar, but the last one was used up Friday. Some teacher workdays in which students did not attend school were used as snow days.

“We’ve used up every single day we had built into the calendar,” Sarles said. “We had two back in October, which included a curriculum development day and a continuing education day. We still have a couple of what we call I.S., instruction support days, and they may be converted to typical school days at the discretion of the county; but at this point, no decision has been made there.”

The “snow days” are used when inclement weather forces the board of education to cancel classes. This year, a variety of weather issues have closed county schools.

“It’s been a combination of things: ice and bone-chilling cold and flooding,” Sarles said. “We were closed Thursday because of flooding in Spanishburg and Oakvale and other low-lying areas.”

The Mercer County school system cannot extend its calendar to make up for days lost to bad weather.   

“We have a limit on the number of consecutive weeks our employees can work,” Sarles said. “Our regular last day for students will be June 11.”

If the three remaining instructional support days were used to make up for lost class time, the last regular day for students would be June 12, Sarles said. These days would not be converted to regular class days if good weather prevails.

In neighboring Tazewell County, Va., Friday marked the seventh day schools were closed by bad weather, said Assistant Superintendent Christine Kinser. The Tazewell County school calendar does not have built-in days to make up for class time lost to bad weather; instead, the school year is extended.

The official last day for school in Tazewell County had been May 17, but that has been extended to May 29 as of Friday, Kinser said.

 In the past, the school system has added 35 minutes to school days in order to make up for lost time, but the board of education has not made any decision to use this option, she added.

Counting three days that were lost when part of Hurricane Sandy hit the region, Buchanan County, Va., students had have missed six days of school, according to Phillip Keene, transportation director for Buchanan County Schools. Friday marked the third Friday in a row the school system has missed due to bad weather. One other school day was lost to a power outage.

“We have to make them all up,” Keene said.

Snow days are built into the school calendar. One option for additional make-up days is to use 45 extra minutes built into each school day as bank days. The superintendent could ask state education authorities to let the school system use those extra minutes to help make up for lost days, Keene said.

If the present school year is extended, the last day of school in Buchanan County would be on May 20, he said.