Latest closures may prolong school year

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Some districts to ask state for waivers to prevent extension

The icy weather that caused some schools to close Monday is forcing districts to consider extending the school year or asking for a waiver from state attendance requirements.

And with wintery weather apparently not over yet, many school districts indicate that they will ask the state for a waiver from the required instructional days per school year.

Among those closed Monday were the Pilot Point and Sanger school districts, Liberty Christian School in Argyle and the Texas Education Centers charter school campus in Aubrey.

The Pilot Point closure was the fifth this school year — the district was closed four days in December during the massive ice storm. The Monday closure was for “unsafe road conditions, ice accumulation on [district] sidewalks and in parking lots,” Superintendent Byron Terrier wrote in an e-mail to the Denton Record-Chronicle.

“The safety of our students, staff and patrons was the key factor in the decision to close school,” Terrier wrote.

Classes are expected to resume today in Pilot Point, he said, and the district will seek a waiver from the Texas Education Agency to make up the missed instructional day. At a Jan. 15 meeting, Pilot Point gave its approval for the district to seek a waiver for two of the four days the school missed in December.

Terrier said the district has submitted the request to the TEA and it is being reviewed.

Any additional waivers the district seeks, including one for Monday, would have to be approved by the school board before they’re submitted, he said. The district intends to make up two of the five missed days of school on May 16 and May 23.

Officials with the Sanger school district could not be reached for comment Monday, but according to the district website, Sanger will make up two of the five days the district was closed this school year on April 18 and May 23. Additionally, students will go a full day on April 17 instead of being released early that day as originally planned.

The Argyle and Ponder school boards gave approval in December for their districts to request a waiver. Each district has two make-up days built into the school calender but will ask for waivers for the additional days they’ve taken for bad weather. Krum school officials have also indicated they are planning to seek a waiver.

Denton Superintendent Jamie Wilson said the district will ask its board for approval to request a waiver from the TEA for missed instructional days this school year sometime in March or April. He said the district is waiting until the “winter weather pattern” has concluded to seek waivers for any missed instructional days beyond the two built into the district academic calendar as make-up days.

Some officials with area schools Monday said that if they are denied waivers they will make up the missed instructional days at the end of this school year.

Liberty Christian School in Argyle closed Monday “due to expected icy conditions,” wrote Michelle Simms, the school’s director of marketing and communications, in an e-mail Monday. School officials considered the “widespread locations” of the families traveling to Liberty within a 15-mile radius, student drivers, road conditions and “impending weather forecasts” when making the decision on whether to close school, she wrote.

“In hindsight, the precipitation did not freeze overnight as much as expected, but Liberty tends to err on the side of caution to look out for the safety of all of our students and parents,” she wrote. “While our teachers will make sure [Monday’s] planned academic material is covered, students will not have to physically make up this missed school day.”

This is the fourth day Liberty Christian has closed this school year because of weather. The school was closed three days for weather in December. The school intends to open today, Simms said.

The Texas Education Centers, which operate charter schools, also closed their Aubrey campus Monday, the fourth closure of the year. The charter’s three other schools in Denton, Lewisville and Little Elm were open for classes Monday.

Superintendent Lisa Stanley said school employees drove the routes to school, and while the roads appeared to be fine, there are students who commute to the school in Aubrey from locations including Pilot Point, Tioga, Collinsville and Whitesboro, where roads were still icy Monday.

“We didn’t want parents to risk bringing their kids in on icy roads,” Stanley said, adding that school officials wanted to be “safer than sorry.”

Another concern was low attendance, Stanley said. If the school had opened Monday and attendance was too low, the school would have had to make up the day later in the school year anyway, she said. About 220 students attend the Texas Education Centers in Aubrey.

Stanley said the school will look to get approval from the charter’s board of trustees next month to request a waiver from the TEA for missed instructional days this month and in December. The Aubrey campus is currently slated to make up two of its four school day closures on April 18 and May 24.

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.


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