(Updated Thursday 11:40 p.m.)
Students and staff in the Paulding County School System will not get a week off for a winter break this semester.
Following a recommendation by Superintendent Cliff Cole, school board members voted unanimously Thursday to use Feb. 21 to 25 and a March 11 holiday as class days to make up time missed this week, as well as another inclement weather day taken Dec. 16.
Limiting the district’s options was its already-shortened school year. Paulding began the year on a 176-day calendar as opposed to the typical 180-day year.
“The state of Georgia will allow you to miss four what they call ‘emergency days,’ ” Cole said. “Normally we use those for inclement weather; this year, we used them due to the financial crisis, or the budget deficit, we had. We started the year four days short, so that’s the reason we’re in the situation we’re in now.”
The district could have asked the state for a waiver, which would have brought the days in school down to 170, but Cole said he didn't think that was in anybody's best interest.
The superintendent said a waiver would also mean that teachers, paraprofessionals, bus drivers and lunchroom staff would lose those six days of pay. Another idea was adding minutes onto the end of days, but with the number of days missed already that didn't seem viable.
Eliminating the waiver option and the possibility of adding time onto the remaining school days left the district with three viable options: adding days onto the end of school year, making up days during winter break or making up days during spring break.
While all options could potentially disrupt vacation plans, scheduling additional days at the end of the year would have meant classes after state testing days and high school graduations.
Choosing the spring break option, Cole said, would give teachers and students little scheduled downtime between February and the end of the school year.
“I realize that families may have plans during (winter break), but also families may have plans during spring break or the week after school,” he added.
The calendar modification was not originally on the agenda of Thursday’s called meeting, meant to replace Tuesday's canceled meeting. Cole told board members that he intended to put his proposal up for vote at the Jan. 25 board meeting. But board members voted to go ahead with a vote after several minutes of discussion.
Board member Kim Cobb said getting the word out on the change to winter break as soon as possible might allow parents and staff members who made travel plans to recover some of the cost.
Michael Skelton, named board chairman earlier in the meeting, pointed out that a Jan. 25 vote would be less than 30 days away from the winter break’s Feb. 21 start.
Cole said that while students would be allowed to make up classwork if a parent sends a note in saying the family had vacation plans, students who miss the new school days would not be counted present, which could prevent those pupils’ from exemptig exams if they go over their allotted absences.
See further coverage of Thursday's board meeting Friday at dallas-hiram.patch.com.