Monday, March 17, 2014
The Berkeley County School Board has reversed its contentious decision to use Memorial Day as an instructional day.
In a tight vote, with Chairman Kent Murray absent, the board voted 4-3 to move the makeup day to June 2 during Tuesday’s regular meeting in Moncks Corner.
Berkeley County schools missed four school days due to Winter Storm Pax that struck the area in February, leaving many without power in freezing temperatures. During the Feb. 25 meeting, the board voted to use April 21 and May 26 as makeup days. Members also voted to extend March 21 from a half day to a full day for middle and elementary school students.
During that previous meeting, school board members said the legislature could pass legislation forgiving possibly two of the instructional days lost. However, the current bill, which recently passed the Senate and is now in the House, means the district needs to come up with three makeup days, according to members.
A third makeup day was made by extending two half days for students. All students will have a full day of school May 30, instead of a half day. High schoolers will also have a full day instead of a half-day May 29. May 30 is the last day of school.
June 2 was always slated as an instructional makeup day on the 2013-2014 school calendar. Board members Doug Cooper, Phillip Obie and Kathy Schwalbe opposed using it over May 26 during Tuesday’s meeting citing graduation issues. Four high schools will graduate prior to the date, and two graduate on the date, according to Superintendent Rodney Thompson.
Vice Chair Shannon Lee made the motion to change the makeup date to June 2. Lee told the audience that her constituents had contacted her in opposition to having school on Memorial Day.
“It was never meant to be a slap in the face to anybody. It was never about being un-American or not honoring those who have fallen in wars or who have put their life on the line for our country. It was about instruction,” Lee said. “To make a decision like that is very hard … I don’t think that either day is great but I have to do what’s best for children and what the people in my area call for.”
David Dick, a citizen opposed to using Memorial Day as an instructional day, said he’s pleased with the reversal.
“We should have never even come to this point,” Dick said. “Some days should be sacred.”
Dick said that the district should have stuck with the plan to use June 2 as an instructional makeup day.
“You stick with the plan … They never even gave the plan a chance,” he said.
Thompson said there were no good choices for instructional days this year. Different options have been scheduled into next year’s calendar.
“We’ve had several years before we’ve had to deal with inclement weather and, this year, we had four days,” Thompson said. “We’re doing our best to correct it for next year.”
Prior to the vote, Cooper suggested using the first day of Spring Break, April 14, instead of either date.
“That gets you a day of instruction prior to the end of school year,” Cooper said. “To have any makeup day after we’ve graduated 50 percent of our kids, we’re kidding ourselves.”