To avoid the scheduling problems that followed Hurricane Matthew last year, the Beaufort County Board of Education has designated this year’s school makeup days to fall on Saturdays, a decision made without seeking public or employee input, something the board has been criticized for in the past.
The district’s 2017-18 academic calendar increases the number of makeup days and identifies eight Saturdays — two each in November, December, March and April — as potential makeup days.
It’s the only district of the state’s 20 largest to rely entirely on Saturdays in the case of inclement weather, according to a review of 2017-18 academic calendars. The 19 other districts identified only weekdays as back-up dates.
While the Beaufort County School District has typically designated weekdays as makeup days, three Saturdays were reserved as makeup days in the 2013-14 academic year, though none were used, according to district spokesman Jim Foster.
The board controls the district’s academic calendar and can move makeup days around as members see fit, as was the case last fall when Hurricane Matthew and Tropical Storm Hermine shaved nine instructional days off the calendar.
The decision on when to make up those days turned out to be a difficult one for the board, which tried to satisfy the state’s requirement on classroom time while minimizing the inevitable disruption to any winter vacations that already had been booked.
Parents and employees, though, were left confused and, in some cases, angry by the haphazardness that followed.
First, without requisite board approval, the district mistakenly informed parents the days would be made up in the first few days of winter break.
Going against this plan, which had the support of Superintendent Jeff Moss, a majority of staff and parents, the board then voted to have students finish their first semester after they returned from winter break.
Soon after that plan was announced, some board members changed their minds, and the board held an emergency meeting to rescind their decision and re-vote. It was the third weather makeup plan announced to the community in the span of about two weeks, which left many families hanging in the balance about winter break plans.
With last year’s scheduling snafu on their minds, the Beaufort County Board of Education discussed at the Feb. 4 work session the need to add more makeup days to the next academic calendar.
The calendar Moss presented on that day, which was endorsed by parents and district employees in a survey conducted by district officials that winter, included just three makeup days: a Saturday in November, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Tuesday after Memorial Day.
Of the state’s 20 largest school districts, Beaufort County School District is the only one to designate Saturdays as weather makeup days for the 2017-18 school year.
South Carolina’s Department of Education requires school districts to designate three makeup days in their calendars.
At the Feb. 4 meeting, the board directed Moss to identify eight makeup days, four in the fall and four in the spring, with the caveat that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving be excluded from consideration.
Moss presented the board with a calendar that featured eight Saturdays as makeup days at the Feb. 7 board meeting. He did not explain then why Saturdays were selected as opposed to weekdays that would have extended the school year or shortened winter and spring breaks.
“How many principals have weighed in on this?” board member JoAnn Orischak asked him then. “Did we run it by teachers? It’s been tweaked since the one they weighed in on.”
Moss said the public had not seen the change to the designated makeup days.
“We might have time to resurvey,” Moss said, adding that the board did not have to approve the calendar that night.
Orischak attempted to make a motion to table the conversation, but Patricia Felton-Montgomery, who was chairwoman at the time, asked the board to refrain from making motions until all comments were made.
Orischak did not make a motion after the discussion ended.
The calendar was approved, 7-2-1, with Orischak and board member Joseph Dunkle voting against it and Felton-Montgomery abstaining.
How many principals have weighed in on this? Did we run it by teachers? It’s been tweaked since the one they weighed in on.
JoAnn Orischak, Beaufort County Board of Education member
The district did not conduct another survey using the new calendar, Foster said.
The board voted again on the calendar on March 21 to amend the first day of school because of the solar eclipse. No board members brought up the makeup days at the meeting. The revised calendar passed 8-0, with Geri Kinton abstaining.
This school year, if a makeup day is needed, Moss will decide which of the designated Saturdays to use, Foster said.
For some students, school on Saturdays isn’t new.
Last spring, more than 600 northern Beaufort County high school students had to attend school on Saturdays to make up for excessive absences. One of those high schools, Whale Branch Early College High, has offered their attendance recovery program every Saturday during the year, except on holidays, to students for at least two years.
Beaufort County School District’s 2017-18 Makeup Days
- Nov. 11, 2017
- Nov. 18, 2017
- Dec. 9, 2017
- Dec. 16, 2017
- March 3, 2018
- March 10, 2018
- April 21, 2018
- April 28, 2018