Blount schools all ‘OK’ on emergency days

Russ Cooper and Daniel Byrd pick up speed as Ryan Mohr hangs on.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Russ Cooper and Daniel Byrd pick up speed as Ryan Mohr hangs on.

So far, so good.

In spite of horrendous weather and icy back roads that just don’t seem to clear, the three school systems in Blount County are OK.

While the first “snow” days were quite fun, as the days began to add up, students and parents began to get more philosophical about missing school -- and what it might do to Spring breaks or Summer holidays.

All three systems can be happy they add in that extra 30 minutes each day, allowing them to stockpile not only administrative days, but emergency days. The state mandates a minimum of 180, 6 1/2-hour days each school year. All three systems in Blount County make the school days 7 hours, extending it by 30 minutes, which allows them to stockpile from 11 to 13 days. Here is the breakdown on the three school systems:

Maryville City Schools

Sharon Anglim, director of communication with Maryville City Schools, says that Maryville City has 13 days because of their extra 30 minutes each day, plus they add five days to the end of the school calendar in addition.

“We have missed five days so far, so we have four more days we can use for snow before we start dipping into the five days at the end of the school year, so we are in pretty good shape,” Anglim said.

To help build back the stockpile, however, Maryville City has changed their March 11 administrative day to a student day, Anglim said.

Blount County Schools

Dr. Jane Morton, supervisor of instruction, says that because of the extra 30 minutes each day, Blount County has 11 days designated for emergency school closings plus two days for administrative days.

“We had 11 days designated for emergency school closings, which can also include closing schools for illnesses, and we have used nine days,” said Morton.

Even with only two days left, the decision on what to do if they are used is still not something that is made ahead of time, Morton said.

“If and when those two days are gone, the decision on what to do would rest with the board of education. We have not had to face that in the past several years, but, if something happens and we use all our stockpiled days, Superintendent (Rob) Britt would gather suggestions and recommendations from the schools, the community and parents and make a recommendation to the board of education. The board approves the calendar, so it is ultimately a board decision.”

Morton said Blount County Schools have been fortunate so far in when the days have fallen.

“We were fortunate in that we have not missed any of the state mandated testing that was due in December and, for the most part, grades have been reported for the first semester, and we were at the beginning of the second semester,” Morton said.

Missing any instructional time with the students is always a cause for a little concern, Morton said, but “it doesn’t change our level of preparation and attention to what we have to do. Teachers will get geared back up and catch up.”

Alcoa City Schools

Tom Shamblin, director of schools for Alcoa City Schools, says that five of Alcoa’s nine emergency days are gone.

“We have those nine days because of the extra 30 minutes we go to school each day,” Shamblin said. Alcoa doesn’t have as many stockpiled days earmarked for emergency days because they use some for administrative days and have some half-days built into the school calendar.

If the remaining four days are used, Shamblin says there are still a couple of administrative days that could be used.

“If we get to the end of our stockpiled emergency days and have to go over, we would first consult with the principals and administrative staff , then make a recommendation to the board,” Shamblin said. “Personally, my first option would be to use some of those professional/administrative days that are still on the calendar and make them student days.”

Another option would be to add one more day to the end of the school year, Shamblin said. “I think we are scheduled to end school on a Thursday, so we could move that to Friday.”

Right now there are no plans to offer any recommendations that would alter Alcoa’s two-week Spring Break. As for the timing of the missed days, Alcoa High School is on a trimester system.

“We missed a day before Christmas but it wasn’t at the end of a term, so it wasn’t crucial as far as testing,” Shamblin said. “This is putting fewer days into that second trimester, because all five days we have missed have come from the second trimester, so we may want to take a look at that.”

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