Beaufort County public schools let out Thursday for winter break, but plenty of students and teachers had already started their vacations.
In total, about 850 extra students and 50 extra Beaufort County School District employees were absent on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the last days of the fall semester, according to district spokesman Jim Foster.
While their reasons for staying home aren’t available, it’s easy enough to guess — Monday was originally scheduled to be the first day of winter break before Hurricane Matthew forced the district to cancel classes for more than a week. The Beaufort County Board of Education didn’t finalize its weather make-up plan until Nov. 4, leaving some families with nonrefundable vacations or simply the desire to stick to their original travel plans.
In total, there were 5,738 student absences the first three days of the week, compared to 3,190 between Dec. 12-14. That’s about 850 more students absent per day, out of a total of 21,750 students in the district.
Among staff, there were a total of 895 absences this week, compared to 734 between Dec. 12-14. That’s about 53 more staff absences per day, out of about 2,700 staff members.
The school board ultimately decided to hold its weather makeup days on Monday through Thursday — a half day — and resume classes Jan. 4. It was the third makeup day plan announced to parents since the Oct. 8 hurricane, and the one that posed the least hardship to parents, students and staff, the board said.
The district expected some families would take their vacations this week anyway, whether school was in session or not. Still, Foster said the number of absences recorded Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were modest.
“The change doesn’t seem to have any great impact,” he said. “We did expect to get higher numbers, and that is what we saw, but when you look at it over the whole district, it doesn’t appear to be a very big number.”