State education board grants weather waivers


LITTLE ROCK — The state Board of Education on Thursday granted inclement-weather waivers to 75 school districts.

The board said the districts seeking waivers would have to make up some, but not all, of their snow days this spring. Districts throughout the state missed days because of unusually severe winter weather.

Districts normally are required to make up all snow days, but they can apply for a waiver if they miss more than 10 days. The board said Thursday that all of the districts that applied must make up at least 10 days — including the Decatur and Quitman districts, which had asked for permission to make up only nine days.

Some board members said they were concerned about the length of the school year with all of the makeup days included.

“We’re seeing schools that aren’t going to be out until June 11, June 12, and school back in session on Aug. 18,” said Alice Mahony of El Dorado. “Would this be an opportunity for us to go to the Legislature or have someone present calendars to the Legislature so we can look at doing something different?”

State Education Commissioner Tom Kimbrell said he believed there would be some discussion of the issue in the 2015 session.

Kimbrell also said each makeup day is required to include at least six hours of instruction.

“We’re getting information from across the state that some of these days are ending at 1 o’clock,” he said. “That’s not the message that we need to be sending. That’s not what we need to be doing.”

Kimbrell recalled that years ago, one district sent home with students a memo saying that on their makeup day they would play basketball in the gym for a few hours, then eat lunch and go home. He said then-Education Commissioner Ken James was “not a happy camper.”