VALDOSTA -- Lowndes County School System officials are riding out the hurricane season before making any decisions regarding making up recent missed days. The system closed for a total of two days due to severe weather associated with Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Ivan.
Superintendent Steve Smith said he cannot risk making a decision now and closing the schools down again in the coming weeks for the same reason. He said it simply does not make good sense.
Whatever happens, Smith said system personnel and students will not lose their two-day fall break, which is scheduled for Oct. 11-12.
"This is the first time we have done this, and I want people to enjoy these days," he added. "I want them to be able to tell me if this is something they prefer to do in the future."
Smith is hopeful State School Superintendent Kathy Cox will waive state regulations requiring students to attend 180 days of school. He said numerous school systems across Georgia were affected by the recent storms, which were beyond their control. If given an option, he said he will recommend the Lowndes County School System not make up the days missed, assuming things remain at two.
"If we lose more days, we will have to make them up," he added. "At that point, it starts to adversely affect a student's education."
Valdosta City School System Superintendent Sam Allen said his students do not have to schedule make-up days based on Section 20-2-168 of Georgia law. This code section states that "in the event that at the end of the last complete week of the school year four or fewer days remain for completion of the regular 180 day school year, a local board of education may, without the necessity of authorization from the state board, elect not to continue school into the following week if the additional days otherwise needed are the result of days when school was closed due to emergency, disaster, act of God, civil disturbance, or shortage of vital or critical material, supplies, or fuel."
The Valdosta City School System's 2004-05 academic year ends on a Friday.
However, Allen said that does not automatically mean he won't recommend the days be made up. He plans to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of doing so with principals before making a final decision.
If the make-up days are needed, Allen said they will likely be scheduled during the Thanksgiving or Christmas breaks.
Valdosta State University officials are watching the weather situation closely as well. Dr. Louis Levy, vice president of academic affairs, said he cannot see scheduling make-up days at this point until the hurricane season passes.
During Hurricane Frances, the university closed its campus for two days. Levy said those days are not a problem as many students simply missed one instructional session as classes meet either three days a week or two.
However, a third day was taken during Hurricane Ivan. That day will need to be made up, Levy said.
"An alternative at this point would be to make up that day during exam preparation day (known by students as dead day)," he added. "Of course, the final decision rests in the hands of the president."
In his opinion, Levy said making up the missed day on Saturday or during the Thanksgiving holidays does not make good sense.
Georgia Military College students made up one of their two missed days on Oct. 17. The second make-up day is scheduled for Friday, said Leslie Hafer, director of the college's Valdosta campus.
The campus closed for a total of two days for safety reasons during Hurricane Frances and Hurricane Ivan.
Hafer said she gave teachers the option of extending class sessions a few minutes at a time or scheduling an entire make-up day based on their needs.
Valdosta Technical College remained unaffected by the recent closures. E.J. Harris, executive vice president, recently said the school requires more hours of instruction than the state's minimum requirements. He said Valdosta Tech had a built-in cushion.
To contact reporter Jessica Pope, please call (229) 244-3400, ext. 255.