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Board changes school calendar

With seven days left to makeup due to snow, the Unicoi County Board of Education altered the school’s calender during Thursday’s regular monthly meeting.
As of Friday, Unicoi County School System has been closed for winter weather conditions for 20 days, and seven of those days have yet to be made up. Board members voted to alter the schedule by adding one day of Saturday classes, take two days from spring break and add four days to the end of the school year.
With a 4-0 vote (Bubba Evely was absent following a family member’s death), the school board approved the changes and said any more days that are missed will be made up the next available Saturday.
Director of Schools Denise Brown said the new dates will change to include school on Saturday, Feb. 27, and April 19 and 20, which are two days of spring break. Originally school was set to end on May 25, but the final day of school will now be May 29. This also places April 2 back as a day off.
Supervisor of Transportation Tommy Clouse spoke to the board and explained how the decision to cancel school is made each day. At 4:45 a.m., Clouse and Brown begin checking roads throughout the county, most of which is done by phone calls to dispatchers at the 911 Emergency Communications department, check with citizens in areas all over the county and even drive to problem areas to personally inspect the road conditions.
At times when there is no snow accumulating or even falling in the town of Erwin or in lower elevations, there are areas of Limestone Cove, Unicoi and Flag Pond that are experiencing completely opposite weather conditions and have several inches of snow accumulation and slick roads.
When the decision was made last week to makeup missed days on Saturdays, officials got a negative response from parents and students. Some people even went as far as creating a Facebook page called “Not Going to School on Saturdays Because of Snow.”
The need to make up the days as soon as possible correlates with state mandated tests that will be administered the first week in April.
Brown said teachers and students need as much instructional time as possible before then to prepare, thus the original decision to schedule to Saturday make-up dates. However, the first one scheduled for Feb. 20 was cancelled due to being out the whole week before for winter weather.
“We’re here to educate the students,” Brown said. “It makes sense to get in as much instructional time before the tests as possible.”
Although the end of winter is in sight, it is possible that more snow could still cancel more school. If that happens, the days will be made up on the following Saturday. For example, if school is called off on Tuesday, that date will be made up on Saturday, according to the board’s decision that passed.
“The only way the students are going to get anywhere is with an education,” she said. “The only way to succeed in life is to get an education.”