Stung by criticism for holding classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Rock Hill school district officials aim to avoid opening campuses on holidays to make up for bad weather in the future.
The school board has asked officials to draft an attendance calendar for next year that leaves holidays untouched even if the board votes to send employees on unpaid leave.
Schools opened Monday to make up for one of last week's three snow days. The reason for that, Superintendent Lynn Moody said, is five unpaid employee-furlough days were added to the calendar last spring to help make up for state budget cuts. That left officials with just holidays - Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Presidents Day and Memorial Day - to designate as the minimum three makeup days required by law, she said.
State law also requires districts that furlough teachers to do so on days when students aren't in class, so school officials chose teacher workdays, which in the past doubled as bad weather makeup days.
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Rock Hill schools spokeswoman Elaine Baker said she plans to draft a calendar that tacks three bad-weather makeup days on the end of the school year. It's not yet clear where furlough days would land or even if there will be any. The board hasn't voted on furloughs.
"I don't know where we are on that," school board Chairman Bob Norwood said. "It's too early to tell. But I don't anticipate the budget will be any better than this year's."
The school board will discuss the calendar scenarios again before voting on them, Norwood said.
The decision to hold classes on Monday sparked a backlash across the region. Civil rights leaders, addressing several southeastern school systems, called the decision an insult to King's legacy.
The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, among others, said schools in Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina should find other ways to make up days.
Moody and her staff fielded calls from people on both sides of the issue, she said.
When a powerful winter storm blanketed the region with snow and ice last week, the district burned through its three makeup days, leaving leaders with another weather question: What happens if it snows again?
School board members kicked around several options, such as holding school on Saturday, extending the school year, cutting into spring break, extending several school days and asking the Legislature for a waiver.
District leaders plan to ask teachers whether they're willing to swap any future snow day for one of the two furlough days left in the school year. In other words, if schools close for weather, that day off would count as an unpaid day of leave for employees.
But that could interfere with teachers' plans for those days, Moody said.
"Teachers should be the ones to weigh in on this because it's a day's pay they're losing," Norwood said.
"I don't think we like any of (the options)," school board member Jim Vining said. In the end, the winner "will be the option the board hates the least.
"I certainly hope it doesn't snow."