DeKalb will extend school day by 20 minutes for days lost to Hurricane Irma

A large fallen limb knocked out power to a portion of north Dekalb County last week closing a section of Briarcliff Road east of Shallowford Road in the Brookdale Park neighborhood. CHRIS JOYNER / AJC

The DeKalb County School District will lengthen its school days by 20 minutes October through December to make up for closing four days last week due to Hurricane Irma.

This has been done before by other metro districts. Gwinnett and Decatur extended their school days for 30 minutes in 2014 after ice and snow crippled the region and forced all schools to shut down. In 2014, DeKalb chose to add days to the end of the year to make up for that lost time.

Writing about schools after the 2014 storm that stranded motorists and school buses for up to 18 hours on paralyzed highways, I reported that days lost to weather take a toll on academic performance:

In a 2009 study, “You Can’t School Mother Nature, ” researchers examined how Maryland and Colorado schools fared on state assessments in years when there were frequent snow days compared to years when there were fewer. The study found the percentage of students passing math assessments falls by about one-third to one-half of a percentage point for each day school is closed.

In an academic year with five snow day closures, the study found that “the number of 3rd graders performing satisfactorily on state reading and math assessments within a school is nearly 3 percent lower than in years with no school closings. The impacts of closure are largest in mathematics and for students in lower grades.”

It may be more palatable for districts to tack extra time onto the end of the year to compensate for snow days. However, that amounts to just filling seats, since there’s little going on during the final days of school when testing is over and grades are submitted.

As noted in the snow day study, “Simply extending the year well after assessments are given might mean that students and teachers spend more days filling (or killing) time before the end of the year. This would make improvements in learning unlikely, and presumably make students unhappy for no good reason.”

Some districts are considering adding minutes to each day to make up for the lost time, but the National Center for Time and Learning, a Boston-based nonprofit that advocates adding instructional hours for students, says that’s not an effective substitute for whole class periods.

Here is the official statement from DeKalb

Making up lost instructional time is key after Hurricane Irma. DeKalb County School District to extend school days by 20 minutes from October 2 to December 20.
In order to recapture precious instructional time lost due to Hurricane Irma, DeKalb County School District will extend its school day by 20 minutes, Monday through Friday, beginning Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, through the end of the first semester on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017.

DCSD schools and offices will also remain open on Election Day (Tuesday, Nov. 7) as the district ensures that students don’t miss out on lessons vital to their academic achievement.

Superintendent/CEO R. Stephen Green and his leadership team emphasized the need to regain opportunities for students to make progress, rather than use the four inclement weather days built into the district’s calendar.

“We did not want to simply recoup lost moments. Our most precious commodity is instructional time, and we want to make this an effective learning opportunity,” said Green. “We lost four days and we’re trying to be as creative and productive as we can about recapturing that time. Extending the school day with this schedule is the least disruptive for all parties.”

RECAP: Extended school day schedule from Monday, Oct. 2, 2017, through Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017:
• Dismissal will occur 20 minutes later than normal, Monday-Friday, each week.
• Parents will receive a notification from their campus regarding the dismissal time.

The decision to extend the school day was a collaborative effort across all DCSD divisions. In addition, Dr. Green is empowered by DCSD Board of Education Policy to make “scheduling changes to the school day because of inclement weather or other emergency conditions.”

A primary goal was not to impact Fall Break or Winter Break for both families and employees who may have commitments based on the approved school year calendar. Also, with the unpredictability of North Georgia weather in the winter, the district does not want to use all its inclement weather days before the onset of that season.

DCSD will embark on an aggressive communications campaign to keep students, parents and the community informed about how this temporary schedule change will impact student transportation, after school programs, and athletics. Those updates will be available via its website at www.dekalbschoolsga.org and through its mobile app and accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

Reader Comments 0

18 comments
gapeach101
gapeach101

What if all the days schools are "off" are now noted as "tentative days off".   Many school districts have fall breaks now.  These could be used as make up days.  Seems there are a couple of days in February as well as spring break.  No, families couldn't make vacation plans set in stone. But if some big project came up at work for mom or dad and it had to be done, I imagine vacations are cancelled under those circumstances.

Clearly this would not make for happy teachers or students, but this is  "work".  Gotta do, what you gotta do, to get it done.

An American Patriot
An American Patriot

Ahhhh, Jim Cherry, please come back from your grave and rescue the DeKalb County School System.  It hasn't been right since you left and those idiots running it now are absolutely inept.  20 minutes added to the end of the day is just wasted time, wasted for everybody involved.  A better move would be to take away some of those breaks given through the year.  Most of them are unnecessary days off and do nothing.  Ahhhh. please return us to the days of yore when policies were set by people who were sane and could make good decisions.

Babycat
Babycat

When a State of Emergency is declared by the Governor, doesn't that then excuse the loss of the school days?  I think this is just another stupid idea by a stupid superintendent!

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Smoke and mirrors.

As others have noted, 20 minutes per day only equates to a few minutes per class.  I would wager that most teachers spend some time each week dealing with behavior issues.  Behavior issues, I would add, that are significantly more disrupting than a few days due to inclement weather.

Fix THAT issue and then get back to us....

liberal4life
liberal4life

Just bean counting by those who have no idea about education.

alt2AJC
alt2AJC

None of this would likely be an issue if real education reform weren't resisted at every turn by the education establishment.

LJTCD
LJTCD

@alt2AJC What type of reform would you like to see? The politicians seem to be dictating what teachers are required to do now. Teachers have no say in doing what is best for their students.  

teachermom4
teachermom4

When Gwinnett did this four years ago, it was awful. Thirty minutes a day didn't sound like much, but it was huge! We really didn't regain instructional time, but we did gain lots of crankiness and disgruntlement from kids, parents, and teachers, especially with the middle school hours.

ErnestB
ErnestB

Coming up with remedies to make up lost instructional days is a 'no win' situation.  Regardless of the solution offered, people are going to complain.

Starik
Starik

@ErnestB  Adding snow days or using existing days would give days of instruction, not 20 minutes of babysitting. With global warming snow days may not be needed. 

Starik
Starik

Ridiculous. Use "snow days."  

dg417s
dg417s

We only have one, and that's in February. In addition, many high schools are on block, so making up the time in February does little to help students who will have Milestones in December.

Starik
Starik

@dg417s  Bad planning. Postpone the milestones a few days. 

dg417s
dg417s

After Christmas? Here, take two weeks off then come back and take your final exam.

Seriously, no system plans for make up days first semester since if we have winter days to make up, they, statistically, are in January and February.

Starik
Starik

@dg417s  DeKalb doesn't care about education, do they? 

eliza
eliza

I know that this is a difficult decision.  In a school that has a 7 period day, that is less than an additional 3 minutes per period. I am not sure how benefical that will be to the students or teachers.

kaelyn
kaelyn

"The decision to extend the school day was a collaborative effort across all DCSD divisions."

Hmm. I guess teachers and parents don't count as "divisions" because we weren't part of the decision making process. Oh, that's right...we rarely are!!!

A AB
A AB

@kaelyn When my most recent principal came to my school several years ago, she extended the school day for students by 15 minutes.  They start 15 minutes earlier than they used to.  So, our school will, in effect, have an extra 35 minutes per day.  Shaking my head.