Tuesday, April 23, 2024

WJCC Elementary School Days to Keep Five-Minute Extension

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Williamsburg-James City County elementary schools will continue to implement the extension of five minutes that were added to the end of the school day in February due to weather-related school closings, and more time may be added during the school year at the discretion of the superintendent.

On Tuesday, the WJCC School Board voted 6-1 — with board member James Nickols (Stonehouse) in opposition — to keep the five-minute extension through the 2014-15 school year and allow Superintendent Steve Constantino to authorize additional time to the end of the elementary school day if inclement weather were to force schools to close for longer than the allotted makeup days already in place.

The 14-member task force Constantino created in April was charged with finding a way to build 10 makeup days into the school calendar after a snow-filled winter forced schools to close for seven days during the 2013-2014 school year. The task force, consisting of parents, teachers and staff, proposed two solutions to building 10 days into the schedule: implement four weather makeup days, such as President’s Day and the day before Thanksgiving, and extend the elementary school day by 10 minutes while standardizing recess to build an additional 5.7 days — or 31.2 hours — into the calendar.

Five minutes were tacked onto the elementary school day in February, with recess shortened to 15 minutes and two half-days scheduled in March and June to full days.

Continuing with the approved five-minute schedule throughout the entire school year and standardizing recess to between 20 and 30 minutes amounts to about 2.9 additional school days.

The division must make up each of the first five missed days. After those five days are used, students will have a makeup day for every two days missed.

After voting at the June 17 meeting to approve the recommended makeup days, the School Board was unsure whether the board would need to vote to extend the school day. Administration reviewed the proposal and recommended that if the approved makeup days are all used, the decision to extend the school day will come at the discretion Constantino.

Constantino said there was a general impression the school division had “banked time” from the original five-minute extension in February. He emphasized that by not extending the school day by 10 minutes like the task force suggested, the division risks reaching a point where it may have to add more than five minutes to the school day.

“We can’t get caught in the middle of winter without a plan,” said Constantino, adding the flexibility could put the board in a difficult situation. “I want to be clear that my maintenance plan may backfire.”

He said last year was the first year he could remember closing school because of snow since he became superintendent in 2011.

No changes were made to the middle and high school days. Middle schools have between 12.9 and 14.7 makeup days built in, and high school have 15.4 days built in.

Parents, teachers and staff will be informed of the makeup days through the school calendar.

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