Gainesville school officials said the district won’t make up five days lost last month to Tropical Storm Irma but will still compensate school personnel with paid emergency leave days.
Schools closed from Sept. 11-15, and more than 8,000 Gainesville school students stayed home when Irma toppled trees, closed roads and knocked out power to thousands of households throughout Hall County.
Gainesville City School System Superintendent Jeremy Williams made the recommendation that was unanimously agreed to by the school board during a work session Monday night.
The move reduces the number of student days from 180 to 175 this school year.
“When Hurricane Irma came, we obviously were in a situation to where we did not feel comfortable putting our students on a bus,” Williams said.
Williams said he and administrators looked at different scenarios to make up the day, including during Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. However, each time administrators expressed concerns about disrupting family trips and family time, and absences.
“We ran into the same issue,” Williams said. “What would be the quality of instruction and what attendance issues we would have?”
As a trade off to the paid time off during the weather event, Williams called on faculty and staff to attend three extracurricular activities — one that’s athletics-based, another that’s art-based and one of their own choosing.
“The one only caveat is they cannot attend something they would typically attend,” Williams said. “So, if I’m a football coach, a football game doesn’t count. If I’m a volleyball coach, a volleyball game doesn’t count. It’s really just to make sure that our students know that we support them outside of the classrooms …”
Prior to the vote on the action, board member Sammy Smith asked how hourly employees would be paid. He said nutrition staff and bus drivers were out of work the whole week because there were no students.
Williams said hourly employees would be paid their normal wages. He said the school district submitted an application for federal recovery funds.
“A lot of school districts are getting recovery funds that would help offset that,” Williams said.
School board Chairman Brett Mercer said he liked the idea of faculty and staff committing to supporting students outside the classroom.
“I am very excited about the part in here of all the faculty and staff having to attend three extracurricular activities,” Mercer said. “What better way to show support for our children.”