Eight days of school missed, no calendar changes planned

Greg Wilkerson News Herald

So far, students in Loudon County and Lenoir City schools have missed eight days due to winter weather, and the superintendents of both systems say they hope for sunnier days.

"Even if you miss a day or two here or there, it has to affect you in some ways," Director of Loudon County Schools Wayne Honeycutt said of the academic impact of missing school.

The most recent stint of missed days stretched the entire week. Both systems have their school days extended 30 minutes beyond the state requirements to build in extra time, which allows up to 13 days in the county and up to 11 in the city to be missed. The slightly longer school day is a common practice in systems across the state.

Lenoir City Schools Superintendent Wayne Miller said they use some of that stock piled time for professional development, but could easily shift their schedule to accommodate the need for more classroom time.

"Once you say what the calendar's going to be, you just need to stick with it," Miller said, adding they encourage parents to schedule doctor's appointments and other events on days when school is out, and changing the school schedule interferes with those plans.

The school systems communicate with each other and work to have the same days missed for winter weather. The systems are integrated in some ways, specifically with transportation of students. Many families also have children of different ages in both systems.

Closing schools is not an easy decision for the superintendents to make, they said, but safety is an important consideration.

"All you have to do is have one kid hurt and then it's a really bad decision," Miller said of opening school when the weather is bad. He said at Lenoir City High School there are 340 student drivers.

If the systems run out of days there are several options the school boards have. They include extending the individual days, extending the school year into the summer, replacing in-service days with classroom days, Saturday school and eliminating all or a portion of spring break.

Honeycutt and Miller said they hope none of those options are necessary.