Seeing white: Snow days pile up, schools struggle to make them up

A snowy Monte Vista in Charlottesville the morning of Wednesday, March 6. Photo by Graelyn Brashear. A snowy Monte Vista in Charlottesville the morning of Wednesday, March 6. Photo by Graelyn Brashear.

If you’re a parent of school-age children in Central Virginia, chances are you feel like your kids have been out of school as much as they’ve been in school this winter. For working parents, it’s been a scramble. On the heels of yet another snow storm that caused delays in Albemarle and Charlottesville, now it’s the school districts’ turn to scramble to make up the time.

State law requires 180 days of school or 990 hours of instruction, and while some districts build in a buffer to accommodate cancellations, local school districts have all gone beyond what they’d planned for inclement weather.

Charlottesville schools have been closed seven days this winter, and Albemarle County has missed 11 days for snow—more than two weeks of missed class time. How are they going to make it up?

According to city schools spokesperson Beth Cheuk, the city used its “banked time” to make up several snow days. One snow day was made up in February and another will be made up on Friday, March 28, when spring break was scheduled to begin. Alas, city schools were closed again since those make-up days were scheduled, and the school board will determine how and when to make up the additional day at its April meeting.

In Albemarle, making up days may be a bit more painful. The school board will vote on Thursday, March 27, whether to extend the school year so that it ends on Friday, June 13, rather than on Friday, June 6. And they may need to make up more than that since school has been canceled again since that recommendation was made by school administration.

According to a recent survey, Albemarle parents just want the snow day slate wiped clean and would prefer that the school district seek a waiver from the Board of Education, said county schools spokesperson Phil Giaramita. The waiver, however, “is at very best, a remote possibility,” he explained.

Eleven days missed is no small number, but Nelson and Louisa parents have even more to gripe about: Nelson students have been out 18 days since early December, and Louisa students have been home 17 days this winter.

The closures in Louisa weren’t due only to snow, however, said school spokesperson Greg Dorazio, who noted that high school and elementary school students have been in temporary mobile classrooms since two schools were destroyed by an earthquake in 2011. Icy metal ramps, and well below freezing temperatures thanks to the polar vortex played a role in the multitude of closures.

The Nelson County school board will figure out how to make up 10 days that haven’t already been scheduled after April 1, according to a receptionist at the school, and Louisa students will make up two snow days during their spring break and will end school May 30 instead of May 23.

Who closed the most?

Charlottesville: 7 days
Albemarle: 11 days
Greene: 15 days
Nelson: 18 days
Fluvanna: 16 days

–closures as of March 26, 2014