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Agency grants district waivers

Profile image for By Britney Tabor
By Britney Tabor

School year won’t be extended because of inclement weather days

The school year won’t be extended for thousands of Denton-area schoolchildren after inclement weather forced closures earlier in the year.

The Texas Education Agency has granted waivers requested by local school officials, meaning schools won’t have to make up those missed class days caused by snow, ice and poor road conditions.

Ten of the 11 public school districts in Denton County sought waivers for bad-weather days, and TEA granted all of their requests. Some districts — including Denton — missed as many as six class days this year because of the weather.

“You never know what the weather is going to bring,” Denton school district Superintendent Jamie Wilson said. “It was just a unique weather situation that caused us to miss instructional days because of the ice and snow.”

The Denton school district was closed for four days in December after an ice storm struck Denton County and kept roads virtually impassable for days. The district had additional bad-weather closures on Feb. 11 and March 3.

The district used its two designated makeup days and asked for waivers for the additional four days missed.

“I think this time of year would have been really difficult for our parents to extend the school day and the school year,” Wilson said.

“I applaud our teachers and our parents for ensuring that we got the content covered that needed to be covered in a shorter time frame.”

If TEA had denied the waivers, the district would have immediately worked with parents and families to plan for an extended school year, he said. The school year is now set to end as scheduled on June 5.

Other Denton-area school districts and charter schools granted waivers because of the weather were: the Krum, Pilot Point, Ponder and Sanger school districts and Winfree Academy Charter Schools, with each missing six instructional days; the Argyle, Lake Dallas and Northwest school districts and the Texas Educations Centers, which had five missed days; and the Aubrey and Little Elm districts, which were closed for four days.

Each of the local districts and area charter schools reported using two makeup days and then asking for waivers for the remaining days missed.

Most area schools closed their doors for several days in December because of the massive ice storm and in February and March when icy weather conditions returned.

“I’ve been with these schools for 13 years and only one other time have we had to apply for [weather-related] waiver days,” said Superintendent Lisa Stanley of the Texas Education Centers.

“Even to have a snow day two weeks before spring break is unheard of. We don’t want it to happen again.”

Stanley said she was happy the TEA immediately responded and granted the waivers. Several parents with plans already in place for the summer were anxious to learn whether the school year would be extended, she said.

“Everything was pending until we knew when the last day of school was going to be,” Stanley said.

“For charter schools, because we only receive [state] funding on average daily attendance ... if the TEA would have rejected and if ... [we] would have chosen not to make up those days, then we would have lost funding for all those days.”

In addition to five weather-related missed instructional days, Texas Education Centers, which has schools in Aubrey, Denton, Lewisville and Little Elm, had a missed instructional day Feb. 7 at its Little Elm campus because of a widespread power outage in the town. There was also a school closure at its Denton school on March 4 after a water sprinkler burst and flooded the school with 3,000 gallons of water, according to the waiver.

TEA data also indicated that waivers were granted on three separate days during the school year to three Argyle schools for missed instructional days because the schools were host sites to district University Interscholastic League academic meets.

Requesting waivers for missed instructional days made sense, said Telena Wright, superintendent for Argyle schools, where the school year will end June 6 for students and June 9 for staff. Graduation is set for June 4.

“It’s the best route for us because we were already going all the way to June 9 with the staff and we have summer school and summer camps, and of course [the] graduation date was already set, so that was the best thing for us to do,” she said in a voice message.

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