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For students, bill coming due for skipped storm days

Citrus students and staff will lose the long weekend scheduled for Veterans Day and might see the school year lengthened into June to make up for lost hurricane days.

The School Board on Tuesday agreed that Nov. 11 and 12, scheduled as holidays, will be regular school days.

That makes up for two of the seven lost days. A committee had proposed seeking state waivers for three of the days. But Tuesday, with another storm passed, board members talked about another plan.

Their idea: Since students cannot afford to lose instructional time _ and employees are contracted for a particular number of days _ the district might lengthen the school year, which is now set to close at the end of May.

The board did not decide whether to accept committee recommendation that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving become a school day.

The concern is that "So many people made plans" for that day, board member Pat Deutschman said. The board will revisit that question later.

Board member Sandra "Sam" Himmel suggested that, for students and staff to make up all the days, the first semester, which ends now just before the Christmas break, would have to extend a week or so into January.

To accommodate that change, more time would have to be added to the end of the school year, stretching it into June.

School officials have been adamant about making up as many of the lost days as possible within the first semester. That would put most of the replaced instructional time before the administration of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which is traditionally given in February and March.

While state educational leaders have discussed pushing the test back this school year, due to the large number of school districts missing significant numbers of days, no decision has yet been announced on the timing of the test.

The board decided to pull the Veterans Day holidays, Deutschman said, because once that was done there were "two less to worry about" making up. That leaves five days to be made up or waived.

The board also sent the question of lengthening the school year to the committee and Jan Morphew, the district's director of research and accountability. She is scheduled to bring a recommendation to the board at its next meeting, Oct. 12.

Deutschman suggested that, if the board decides to make that change, special accommodations should be made for high school students who had planned to graduate in December.

She said having all employees make up all days is the most fair policy. With employees all working different schedules, and with 19 different pay scales, it would just be simpler. "Regular work day. Regular pay. No fuss. No muss. Kids will learn," she said.

As part of its schedule shuffling, the board also moved the end of the first quarter, which would have concluded Oct. 8, to Oct. 19. As a result, the half-days scheduled for Oct. 7 and 8 now will be full days, while the full days scheduled for Oct. 18 and 19 now will be half-days.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at 564-3621 or behrendtsptimes.com.

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