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Currituck’s school days may be longer this fall

Currituck school officials are considering adding extra minutes to each school day and are in the process of gathering input from parents and school personnel about the idea.

In looking at past school years, assistant superintendents Dr. Matt Lutz and Renee Dowdy reported during the Currituck Board of Education’s work session this month that on average there were 31.25 instructional hours missed from weather events in the past eight years, an average of 36.4 hours missed in the last five school years. The fewest hours missed in a school year, two, in 2015-16; the most, 73 hours missed in 2014-15.

In addition, the current calendars (there are three: elementary/middle schools, Currituck County High School, J.P. Knapp Early College High School) have each been revised six times to make up for the days schools were closed because of inclement weather.

If 10 minutes are added to the day, 28 instructional hours would be added to the school year, or one week of instructional days, that would be enough to cover the average number of weather days missed.

Ten minutes were added to the last few months of this school year to make up for hours lost, and 10 minutes was the number that board of education members seemed most comfortable with, particularly since that amount has already been in play.

If time is added to the school day, it will not be in addition to the ten minutes added this year, those minutes will be dropped before any other time is added.

Lutz and Dowdy also prepared information about the impact of adding other amounts of minutes – 15 minutes a day would add 42 instructional hours, 20 minutes a day would add 56 instructional hours. The required number of hours is 1,025.

Lutz noted that the cushion of hours will help protect the calendar from changes during the school year. That would help parents who are setting up appointments, child care, etc. Less last-minute rescheduling, and when the calendar is changed, grading periods are also affected.

In addition, when make-up time is needed, early release days are some of the first to go, along with teacher workdays. Having a cushion would help protect the very thing school officials have been working to give teachers, staff planning and professional development opportunities that are available on those half-days and mandated workdays.

Board member Janet Rose commented that a prior survey of parents and staff showed that many were not in favor of extending the school day.

However, Dowdy suggested there would likely be more support if everyone knew going into the school year the day would be longer, instead of having to adjust mid-year.

In addition, beginning and ending times at each school have not been set, as Lutz said that it may make more sense for some schools to start a littler earlier and some to dismiss a little later.

Bus routes will also have to be part of the equation.

Information was expected to be sent home with students for parent input about adding time to the school day.

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