DeKalb Schools to extend school day to make up for days lost to Irma

Superintendent Steve Green talks with sixth-grade students in teacher Paul Johnson’s social studies class in Chapel Hill Middle School on the first day of classes in August 2015. The district announced students will attend an extended school day through December to make up days lost to Tropical Storm Irma. KENT D. JOHNSON /KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

Credit: Kent Johnson

Credit: Kent Johnson

DeKalb County Schools officials announced the school day will be extended 20 minutes to make up days lost as the storm known as Irma wreaked havoc on the state.

The extended school day will begin Oct. 2 and run through Dec. 20. Students also will attend school on election day, Nov. 7.

Schools were closed Sept. 11 and reopened on Sept. 15 after Irma brought powerful winds and heavy rain into the metro Atlanta region, knocking down trees and power lines and leaving more than 1 million residences without power across the state.

Several options on how to make up the days were considered, Superintendent Steve Green said Friday. District officials have one day built into their calendar officially as an inclement weather day, but had singled out several other days, including election day and a fall break Oct. 5 and 6.

“The end of the year as instructional time doesn’t serve us well,” Green said about options to make up days. “The peak of instruction leads up to (Georgia) Milestones. It would affect graduation dates that have been set. We’re looking for the least disruptive endeavor.”

How the additional time will be divvied up among classes will be an individual school decision, district officials said. Substitute teachers will not receive additional pay for the extra time.

Social media was abuzz earlier in the week as news spread that the district was considering taking away the fall break to make up days lost due to Irma. Parents and teachers took to the internet saying they’d still miss those days, as trips have been planned and money has been spent.

“I am OK with the extended day rather than taking the mini break away,” said Charlene Johnson, whose son attends The Champion School. “It’s going to be an inconvenience, but it’s far better than me losing money that I’ve already paid for him to go somewhere else.”

An extended school day isn’t unprecedented in metro Atlanta. In 2014, schools were closed at least a week after a storm made roads impassable for several days, with many covered in thick sheets of ice. In the aftermath several school districts, including Gwinnett County Schools and City Schools of Decatur, added 30 minutes to the day through the end of the school year to avoid tacking days to the end of the school year.

“We did not simply want to recoup lost moments,” Green said. “Our most precious commodity is instructional time, and we want to make this an effective learning opportunity. We lost four days and we’re trying to be as creative and productive as we can about recapturing this time.”

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