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MAKEUP DAY WON’T FALL ON SATURDAY

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No one can say Davis School District doesn't pay attention to its neighbors.

Witnessing the hue and cry resulting from the decision of Jordan and Granite districts to schedule snow makeup days on Saturdays, Davis chose the better part of valor and decided Tuesday to schedule its makeup days on Friday, March 22, for most schools and Monday, April 8, for year-round schools."I don't know about other board members, but I've had more phone calls on this issue than any other," board member Barbara Smith said.

The makeup Friday was a teacher preparation day, which will in turn be made up on Friday, May 31. The Monday was a spring break day for the three year-round tracks affected by the snow closure.

There was no support for a Saturday makeup day among members of the Calendar Committee, which recommended the makeup days to the board.

Some parents and teachers grumbled that Utah districts ought to follow other schools around the nation, many of which are quick to characterize missed days as "snow disasters" and simply write them off.

"There's not a whole lot of wiggle room there," said Susan Firmage, a teacher at East Layton Elementary. "They ought to just say, `Hey, act of God.' "

Schedules are especially tight for the district's 14 year-round elementary schools because the Utah Board of Education began requiring those schools to go 172 days instead of 170, as they had been doing, though the actual hours of instruction, 990, are the same.

The 172-day requirement was part of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Scott Bean's push to have schools in session more days with shorter days instead of vice versa. Traditional schools are now required to be in session 180 days.

The decision was made in part to prevent rural districts from scheduling four long days of school each week to free up Fridays for athletic events and other activities.

Bean had originally advocated that all schools, year-round and traditional, be the same. On an appearance on KUTV's "Take Two" program, Bean was asked by reporter Rod Decker whether he proposed that year-round schools be subject to the 180-day requirement, to which Bean answered yes.

That comment sparked panic among district superintendents who had year-round schools, including Davis Superintendent Richard Kendell, who descended en masse on Bean's office the next morning to talk him out of the idea. Scheduling year-round schools 180 days would require that tracks overlap, which is logistically impossible. Bean finally compromised on 172 days for year-round schools.

"(Bean) stuck his foot in his mouth," Firmage said. "When he said to overlap the tracks, there's no place to put the other students. Everyone who knows year-round just laughed."

An additional two days doesn't seem like a lot, but year-round school schedules are extremely complicated things that don't brook change well. Schedulers have to try to correlate holidays and breaks with traditional school calendars, ensure smooth transitions between tracks, and make sure there are at least two summer weeks when no one is in school to accommodate building cleaning and maintenance.

On-track year-round students next year will be required to attend school the day before Thanksgiving and have only a one-day spring break to meet the extra two-day requirement.

Next year's school calendars approved by the board Tuesday have no scheduled snow makeup days. The plan is to schedule them on an ad hoc basis as needed.

"This gives us a little more flexibility," Smith said.

The board toyed with the idea of starting school on a Friday to ease tight scheduling hassles, as well as to ease the transition from laze-around, sip-lemonade vacation to crack-the-whip, stretch-your-brain school but finally decided against it.

"If we can start talking this up, it might be an option for next year," Phipps said.