School back in session Tuesday as systems respect King Day

Metro Atlanta school kids fresh off a weeklong snow-cation may find at least one or two of those days added back to their calender, as school officials began Friday to sort out how to make up for lost class time.

With students already scheduled to be off Monday for the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, officials said days originally set aside later this school year for teacher workdays or furloughs are likely now to become regular school days. Other systems are contemplating using vacation days. Still others have not yet decided what to do.

None of the metro jurisdictions seriously considered making students come in on the federal King Day holiday, unlike two small North Georgia systems -- Fannin and Gilmer counties -- which have outraged civil rights leaders by announcing they would do just that, the Associated Press reported.

Students in Rock Hill, S.C., are also to use Monday as a make-up day because of this week's severe weather. One outlying metro county, Forsyth, is requiring staff to report to work on the holiday, a system spokeswoman said, but students are still scheduled to be off.

"Atlanta had a special significance in [Dr. King's] life and in his work and that is not something we would have considered for just one day," Atlanta Public Schools spokesman Keith Bromery said.

State schools Superintendent John Barge, who took office this month, declined Friday to weigh in on the matter.

"School calendars are a ‘local control' issue," state education department spokesman Matt Cardoza said. "Local boards of education are locally elected to make that decision, along with the local administration."

Dozens of Georgia systems canceled classes this week, many for all five weekdays, undone largely by treacherous roads and icy sidewalks that lingered into Friday afternoon. As system officials grappled with what to do, state officials have said they would have flexibility, originally granted due to the budget crisis, to deviate from Georgia's traditional 180-day calendar.

Most systems already had built into their school calendars three to four days for school closures, days that will not have to be rescheduled. They have options for those days over the limit, including revising the local school calendar, such as using days from spring break. Schools also could consider adding minutes or hours to remaining school days or request a waiver from the state for the time.

Cardoza said no waivers had been requested as of Friday, although it may be too early for decision-making. In Atlanta, Bromery said the system had built four emergency days into its calendar and took a fifth day Friday. No decision had been made about how to make up that day but, he said, officials may wait until closer to springtime in case of more severe weather.

Gwinnett County administrators had also not decided how to make up its missed days.

“Traditionally, additional days have been added to the end of the calendar,” system spokeswoman Sloan Roach said. This year, however, “We are already ending school on May 26. May 27 is a Friday and then we are ... into the Memorial Day holiday.”

System officials never considered using Monday as a make up day for students, Roach said, because “it is a holiday. Many of our students as well as district leaders participate in King Day activities.”

DeKalb County officials anticipate holding classes on one of the school system's scheduled February break days. Spokesman Walter Woods said administrators had a conference call Friday and went through the calendar. They decided to wait until next week and look at weather reports before making a final decision.

“We used all of our days in a chunk and that has not happened in a number of years,” Woods said. "The county school system is very in line with Dr. King’s mission and [Monday] was never a consideration.”

In Cobb County, officials decided to schedule a full day of school on March 18, which was originally set aside as a teacher workday. Superintendent Fred Sanderson said teachers and employees will be paid for the snow days but may have to work extra days at the end of the school year, unless the state decides that employees will be excused from making up the time.

Sanderson said the district did not discuss holding school on King Day because it is a federal holiday.

Cherokee County students will only have to make up two missed days, despite an announcement by the district earlier this week that six missed days would be rescheduled -- the five from this week and one day from earlier this school year. Instead, students will be required to report on March 17 and 18, which were originally designated as teacher furlough days.

Clayton County school superintendent Edmond Heatley has met with his administrative staff but no "final decision" has been made regarding makeup days, spokesman Charles L. White said. Clayton currently has taken five snow days. White said holding classes on King Day never came up as an option.

The same was true for many of the area's top private schools, which also had already scheduled Monday as a holiday. Many posted updates on their websites noting students would be back Tuesday. In Marietta, Mount Paran Christian School headmaster David W. Tilley said it was a matter of "respect for this national holiday and in honor of the service of this great American."

Staff writers Nancy Badertscher, D. Aileen Dodd, Tammy Joyner, Megan Matteucci, Jaime Sarrio and Jeffry Scott contributed to this article.

District by district

Most systems had three to four days already built into their calendars for school closures. Those days won’t have to be made up but, for days over the limit, the options include revising scheduled time off, adding minutes or hours to remaining school days or requesting a waiver from the state for the time.

School District Make-up plans

Atlanta Undecided. Officials may wait until closer to springtime in case of more severe weather. One day to reschedule.

Cherokee County Scheduled make-up days for March 17 and 18.

Clayton County Undecided.

Cobb County Scheduled make-up day for March 18.

DeKalb County Undecided. Anticipates holding classes on one of the school system's scheduled February break days.

Forsyth County Staff, but not students, required to make up work on Monday, a federal holiday.

Fulton County Undecided. Options include scheduled holidays in February, April, Spring Break or an extension of the school year.

Gwinnett County Undecided. Two days to make up so far. Options include an extension of the school year.