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To say the 2018-2019 school year has been unusual is an understatement, according to the county’s school superintendent.
Grady County Schools Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard said local students have not missed as many days of school due to unforeseen circumstances in more than four decades, if ever.
“Unfortunately, we have missed a total of eight days of school this year, which is highly unusual. If we miss one day that is rare, but to miss nearly two weeks of instructional time is practically unheard of,” Dr. Gilliard said.
On the advice of emergency management officials and based on a dire forecast from the National Weather Service, most schools in southwest Georgia closed last Friday.
“From what we were being told, the bad weather would arrive about the time many of our children would be out waiting on or getting on buses. With predictions of winds gusting up to 80 mph, it would be unsafe for school buses to be on the roads,” the superintendent said.
As it turned out the weather situation here was not nearly as bad a predicted, but Dr. Gilliard said he will always err on the side of student safety. “You always second guess decisions like this, but based on everything we were being told it was the right decision to make,” he said.
Friday’s closing brought the total of days missed by Grady County students to eight during the current school year and there is no time to make up the days without extending the school year, which Gilliard is not prepared to recommend.
Students missed four days in October following Hurricane Michael, and one day in November due to the failure of a major water line that left practically the entire city of Cairo without water. The most recent loss of days occurred in March when Cairo was struck by a tornado that resulted in two days of school being closed.
The Georgia Department of Education does not require local students to make up the lost time because, as Gilliard notes, the Grady County School System’s strategic waiver permits the county schools to have a school calendar different from the state mandated 180-day calendar.
However, Dr. Gilliard said he would recommend to the Grady County Board of Education on May 14 that an additional professional development day for teacher be added on Thursday, May 30. School for students concludes on Friday, May 24.
“I regret that our students have missed so many days and Friday’s closing also forced us to revise the testing schedule. If it were possible to make up some of these days we would, but with them occurring when they did, it is difficult to make up that many days at the end of the year without disrupting family schedules, vacations and the like,” Dr. Gilliard said.
In other school system related news, the Board of Education held a special called meeting Tuesday morning.
The board authorized the hiring of the following personnel: Alice Hayward – PreK-5 teacher at Eastside Elementary School; Lori Walker – PreK-5 teacher at Whigham Elementary School; Delceina Layne – PreK-5 teacher at Eastside; Whitney Mitchell – parapro at Whigham; and Janette Burkes – special education teacher at Cairo High School.
The board accepted the resignations of: Courtney Brown – teacher at Washington Middle School; Llarie Michael – teacher at Eastside; Adrian Parker – teacher at Eastside; Selea DeValle – special ed parapro at Eastside; Thomas Harper – teacher at WMS; and Amanda Shafer – teacher at WMS.
Lastly, the board approved transferring Brandy Brown from parapro at Southside Elementary School to parapro at Whigham School.