Education Beat: Albemarle considers winter weather busing to avoid snow days

Design students from Pierre-Adrien Pâris Professional High School in Charlottesville’s sister city, Besançon, France, visited CATEC's building trades classes last week. Photo: Tim Shea Design students from Pierre-Adrien Pâris Professional High School in Charlottesville’s sister city, Besançon, France, visited CATEC’s building trades classes last week. Photo: Tim Shea

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The Albemarle County School Board last week debated moving bus stops to major roads in snowy weather in an effort to keep buses off rural roads and avoid snow days. But transportation staff recommended not adopting the “Plan B” routes, citing safety concerns for students walking on unplowed roads, the difficulty of transporting students with special needs, and resulting low attendance. The board has requested more information before it will make a final decision.

School board member Eric Strucko said adopting the changes would benefit working families. However, Transportation Director Jim Foley estimated that about 120 students have Individual Education Plans that require Albemarle to provide door-to-door transportation. If schools were to open but not bus those students, the division could be challenged for not fulfilling its obligations, board attorney John Blair said.

In total, Foley estimated that about 1,450 students of the division’s total population would be impacted by the Plan B routes. But several board members questioned the reasonability of allowing a smaller number of students to keep the remainder from attending school. Blair pointed out that no students are denied educational opportunities when the school days can be made up.

Between November 26 and March 7, Albemarle closed 11 times during 23 weather events, which translates to a 48 percent close rate. During the same time period, eight surrounding counties closed 61 percent of the time.

Sister city students study at CATEC

The Charlottesville Albemarle Technical Education Center last week played host to visitors from Pierre-Adrien Pâris Professional High School in Charlottesville’s sister city, Besançon, France. During the stay, 12 high school and nine adult education students worked with CATEC students to build a 16×16′ energy-efficient house.

The two cultures take different approaches to career technical education, so the collaboration is serving both groups, said building trades instructor George Cheape. CATEC Green Technologies Instructor Rich Fletcher said the project is helping his students understand the design concepts they’re trying to achieve in real life, such as LEED and RT2012, France’s thermal regulations for buildings.

Mickael Langlet. Photo: Tim Shea


Mickaël Langlet, construction teacher, Pierre-Adrien Paris
Professional High School, Besançon, France (Charlottesville’s Sister City)

What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?

To get all students to reach the required level of knowledge and technical ability. There is no universal method of teaching; if we had one, teaching would be easy and problem-free. It is difficult to individualize teaching while you teach the masses.

What is the most common misconception about your job?

In France, people think we don’t work much, as we have 18 hours of face-to-face instruction in a full-time work week. However there is a lot of preparation before your lessons. It can be compared to an iceberg, in that the preparation for high-quality teaching often appears out of sight.

What experience prepared you best to become a teacher?

Being in charge of students and kids for ski lessons gave me a hint of what could be teaching (I live in the Alps!). Besides that, my experience working in professional settings taught me the world of work and an important trait: flexibility!