By Bob Fenske, firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles City Superintendent Dr. Dan Cox caught a “spring break” Monday morning.
While his fellow superintendents were out and about driving on snow covered roads, Cox didn’t have to make the decision — class or no class — that he says is part common sense and part “art.”
Because Charles City students began their spring break Monday, Cox didn’t have a decision to make, but make no mistake about it, it’s been a busy school year for the Charles City superintendent.
Between this fall’s flooding and the snow this winter, Cox has called off school seven times. And the school administrator hopes there isn’t an eighth.
“It’s never an easy decision, and I think there is a lot of art to it,” he said. “Obviously, the first thing we want to do is make sure our students are safe, but one of the things you realize is that there are always going to be people who don’t agree with whatever decision we’ve made.”
The good news is that Charles City students won’t have to endure seven extra days of school tacked onto the calendar.
That’s because the district bases its year on hours, not days. School districts in Iowa must either have 180 days or 1,080 hours of school, and Charles City bases its calendar on hours.
“It does give us flexibility,” he said, “and it’s not always with the just weather. With state volleyball, if you play at 6, you can dismiss at 2 and give people plenty of time to get to Cedar Rapids. With days, you can’t
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dismiss early for sports and count it as a day.”
Cox said Wednesday that when winter ends, he will double-check the hours but as of now, he expects the last day of classes to be on Friday, June 2. The school year was originally scheduled to end with a half-day on May 31, and Cox said there is a chance that June 2 will be a longer “last day” than normal.
Teachers in the district, however, are contracted by days, and they will work the entire first full week of June.
Other school superintendents weren’t as fortunate as Cox was on Monday. Take Nashua-Plainfield Superintendent Randy Strabala, for example.
He first called for a late start, but by 8 a.m., he canceled classes for the day — marking the sixth time Nashua-Plainfield had lost a day of school because of weather.
“It really was a matter of giving our road crews time to get the roads cleared off,” Strabala said. “We thought we might get by with a two-hour late start, but even with that, we couldn’t have gotten buses on some of the roads. Those guys had a lot of snow to move.”
It marked the fourth “snow day” this winter for the school district, and coupled with the two flood days that were taken in September, Nashua-Plainfield students will now have their last day of classes on Friday, June 2.
The latest snow day cut into an already abbreviated school week for students.
Parent-teacher conferences were held on Monday and Tuesday — Strabala said the district decided to go ahead with conferences because road conditions had vastly improved throughout the day — and Wednesday was a “comp day” for teachers while today and Friday make up the district’s “spring break.”
That means students had one day of school — Tuesday — this week, but Strabala said there is value in having spring break.
“It’s a long stretch between Christmas and end of the school year,” he said, “and I think it’s good for everyone to get away from each other for a few days. I don’t mean that as bad as it sounds, but there’s value in recharging for the rest of the school year.”