Delaware’s State Board of Education has approved Secretary of Education Mark Murphy’s recommendation to “forgive” up to six school days missed because of snow and/or ice.
Given the safety challenges caused by this year’s brutal winter, Murphy felt the request was warranted. The six days correspond to the days when Governor Jack Markell declared States of Emergency for state offices.
State law requires school districts and charter schools to provide a minimum of 1,060 hours of instruction for grades K-11 and 1,032 for seniors in high school. However, a provision in the law allows districts and charters to appeal to the education secretary and the state board to reduce the number of school hours under certain circumstances.
While Murphy made the recommendation, he stressed the importance of time spent in the classroom for students and teachers.
“The adults in our educational system — the teachers, the counselors, the school leaders — they all rely on time to help facilitate their work, their learning, their planning and their reflection. And it is these things that subsequently drive the outcomes we all seek for our children,” Murphy said. “While the outcomes are improving, they also are sobering when looking at the number of children who do not show success at the end of high school.”
And losing hours doesn’t help, Murphy said, calling for better planning from school districts in the future so the state and its schools don’t find themselves in a similar situation.
“Moving forward, I fully expect our district and charter leaders to… work with their communities, their parents and their teachers to build in the strategies to ensure our students and educators are not robbed of learning time,” he said. “And I expect that should we happen to have another set of challenging weather next school year, we will not see requests for ‘forgiveness of time.'”
The Department of Education says all of the districts missed more time than was forgiven, about 10 days of school total because of weather, adding all 19 school districts and several charter schools requested forgiveness. While many districts and charters built in extra time to their calendars, many still need to make up time.
Some districts, like Appoquinimink and Indian River, have extended their school days by 30 minutes to make up the lost days. Moves that earned them praise from Murphy.
“I encourage these districts and charters to continue with their plans for making up this time, and I applaud them for recognizing the importance and value in making the time up for our students and teachers,” said Murphy.
A request by Seaford School District to forgive three student days missed because of construction issues in August was not approved.