Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dealing with the weather

Snow, sleet, ice, and an earthquake have helped us welcome in the start of 2014.  Our payment for the pain is seventy-degree weather only a few days after the “snow jam” and, of course, the question of what to do with six missed instructional days for our nearly 7000 students.  Yes, we all know two things by now – #1, in 2014, when the caller ID says Oconee County Schools, it is more than likely pertaining to the weather, and #2, Jake Grant, chief operating officer and the voice of the calls, could go into radio if his current gig does not work out. 

In all seriousness, the weather that Oconee County and the rest of Georgia experienced in January and February was truly extraordinary.  The Governor declared a state of emergency on two occasions and the State Board of Education passed a resolution “forgiving” those school days missed during the declared emergencies.  The latter action allows local school districts the flexibility to be innovative, responsible, and reasonable about the approach to our students’ lost time. 

After much consideration and review, Oconee County Schools determined that we will utilize the previously scheduled make-up day of March 14, coupled with the already utilized make-up day of February 18, to recoup two days of lost instruction.  In addition, we will move back our CRCT testing window by one week (the first day of the window is now April 28), and request that our teachers work with students in a non-traditional manner to provide additional instructional support for the remaining four days lost.  This approach recognizes and respects both the need for education and family.  It provides additional time to prepare for the CRCT, makes up traditional instructional time where available, and maintains the remainder of the calendar, preserving spring break and the last day of school. 

How did we come about this decision? 

First, we reviewed our instructional minutes and State Board of Education Rule 160-5-1.02 that states “school systems shall either have 180 days of instruction or the equivalent minutes.” 

The following chart reflects our district’s instructional minutes as compared to the required minimum.  Clearly, even at 174 traditional days of instruction, OCS far exceeds the contact minutes required. 


Equivalent School Calendar and Instructional Time
Required Minutes
Oconee Minutes
178 Days
174 Days
K-3:  270 per day
330 per day
30 days over
26 days over
4-5:   300 per day
345 per day
21 days over
17 days over
6-8:   330 per day
382 per day
22 days over
18 days over
9-12: 330 per day
389 per day
25 days over
21 days over





Next, we spoke with school leaders about testing windows and methods of instruction that could be utilized to assist our students in today’s educational environment.  Finally, we asked the question, “What does our community expect and what do our students demand?”  

In the end, I believe that the decision demonstrates a common-sense approach to a difficult situation.  Tell me what you think via email at jbranch@oconeeschools.org.

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