Bibb school board debates how to deal with makeup days

A Bibb County school board committee recommended Thursday that the school days canceled Monday and Tuesday because of icy weather be furlough days for teachers and staff.

Still in limbo, however, is what the system will do to make up those school days on the calendar for students who couldn’t attend classes.

The board still must take final action on the recommendation.

Bibb County interim Superintendent Sylvia McGee met with staff members Wednesday to discuss options for student makeup days. McGee said she recommended to the board that March 11, which was originally to be a furlough day, become a makeup day for employees and students.

However, May 23 the system’s second original furlough day was recommended to the committee Thursday to be a makeup day for teachers only, as part of the system’s professional development days.

McGee explained to board members the rationale behind the recommendations, which included possible future bad weather postponements the rest of this winter, the fact that the system eliminated “snow days” on the calendar as a cost-savings measure at the beginning of the academic year and that Bibb County already exceeds the state minimum requirements in total hours of class time.

Board member Susan Middleton, however, opposed the idea of students only making up one of the two days during the rest of the academic year. She gave several suggestions of possible makeup days, including making May 23 required for students and teachers, taking a day off spring break, having classes on a Saturday or having the makeup day on Presidents Day in February.

School board President Gary Bechtel said some of those days would be problematic, because some families already have made arrangements for spring break, for example. He said he thought attendance would be low on some of the potential makeup days Middleton suggested.

“If attendance is low, then that’s the parents sending a message about what they think about education,” she replied. “It’s not because of something the school board did.”

In the end, the board voted to table the issue to give McGee and her staff another week to tinker with the schedule. The committee will have a specially called meeting before the regularly called board meeting Jan. 20.

In other business Thursday, auditor Miller Edwards of Mauldin & Jenkins LLC presented the school board with a “clean,” or unqualified, audit of fiscal 2010.

“In a nutshell, it went well,” Edwards told the board.

Edwards said the system’s general fund had a better year than expected, showing a $5 million increase when original projections had the system breaking even.

He said the system did an excellent job in disbursing federal dollars received from the American Recovery and Revitalization Act, which he noted could be very difficult given that the federal government is constantly adjusting regulations.

“The rules can change daily, and you stayed on top of it,” he said. “You handled it better than most school systems.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.