Weather days freeze out Feb. 17 planned school holiday

Chad Fulton

By Traci Chapman

Mustang students will attend classes Feb. 17, after members of Mustang Public Schools Board of Education on Monday approved a schedule change.

Board members voted unanimously to cancel the scheduled day off, marked on the district’s calendar as a professional development day. Board member Amanda Strassle was absent.

The move came upon the recommendation of Superintendent Sean McDaniel. He said school should be held to make up, in part, days missed because of recent inclement weather. Mustang schools have been closed due to weather five days this school year.

“What we want to keep in mind is the benefit to the students,” McDaniel said.

Spring break is scheduled March 17-21, with Friday, March 14, listed as an additional day off for teachers and students, according to the district calendar. McDaniel said March 14 would be used as a professional development day, but teachers and staff who planned vacations because the day was supposed to be off would be able to utilize personal leave time so their plans would not be disrupted.

The decision was made less than one week before the scheduled day off, forcing the city of Mustang to cancel two planned activities set up for students who were anticipated to be out of school Feb. 17. A special one-day activity and babysitting class, both scheduled at Mustang Recreation Center, would not be held, officials there said Tuesday.

Mustang has built time into school days to help alleviate the possibility of having to add days due to inclement weather, McDaniel said. Although the district wasn’t obligated by law to make up the days already lost, he recommended the move because of testing.

Charles Bradley

Charles Bradley

“Losing one day wouldn’t impact all students, but it could have an adverse effect on some of them,” he said.

The bulk of the district’s testing happens in April, although some reading tests were scheduled for Feb. 26, administrators said. Adding instructional time Feb. 17 would help students who might be struggling, especially after missing two days in recent weeks, they said. It also lessened the possibility of having to add days to the end of the school year, McDaniel said.

“I’m not sure the value of bringing people back after Memorial Day,” he said. “I think we’ll have half-empty classrooms.”

While the board made the decision to cancel the planned Feb. 17 holiday, a decision was not made about a possible closure at the end of March.

McDaniel presented to members the issue of a March 31 rally at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Sponsored by the Oklahoma Education Coalition, the rally is aimed at drawing attention to education funding issues across the state, said Ryan Owens, executive director of United Suburban Schools Association.

“We’re going the wrong way, something needs to be done to turn this around,” Owens said.

The rally would give educators the chance to speak to legislators, to determine if “public education in Oklahoma is a priority,” McDaniel said.

“Since 2008 public education has been cut by over $200 million, and we have had a minimum of seven state mandates,” he said. “Some of those have not been fully funded, some not funded at all.”

Some districts have already approved canceling classes March 31, among them Tulsa Public Schools, Bixby, Broken Arrow and Sapulpa. While Mustang’s board did not approve closure, they expressed support for McDaniel’s efforts. The superintendent said he wanted to speak to teachers to determine the level of support for the rally and did not yet know whether teachers should take time off to attend or school should be closed that day.

District staff could not be compelled to attend the rally should classes be canceled, administrators said.

In other business, board members approved the 2014-2015 calendar, with the exception of graduation, which was scheduled for Sunday, May 17. Dr. Jim Davis requested assistant superintendent Charles Bradley check into options. Space was reserved at Lloyd Noble Arena, which has been the school’s practice for several years, Bradley said.

“Personally, I think Sunday is a horrible day to have graduation,” Davis said. “I think we need to explore other options.”

Jim Davis

Jim Davis

Bradley said he was not sure why the school’s graduation fell on a Sunday, but he would research the issue and report back to board members.

Bradley also reported on the status of the district’s redistricting efforts. Administrators expected to make a draft plan available for public review in the “next week or two,” Bradley said. The proposal is expected to be considered by the board during its March meeting.

“Our goal is to have enough time for people to digest it,” he said.

In addition to having information on the district website, an informal forum would be scheduled, McDaniel said.

“We can gather comments and questions,” he said. “That’s coming in the next week to 10 days.”

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