The Transylvania Times -

Storm Won't Impact School Days - Brevard NC


December 17, 2018

Schools in Transylvania County were closed for much of last week due to last weekend’s winter storm, but it appears as if the inclement weather will not have much impact on the schools’ calendars.

Transylvania County Schools was prepared for the event and students were still engaged academically through their Virtual Days program. On Virtual Days, students use computers at home to do assignments or work on other pre-assigned work. These days count as actual school days and do not have to be made up.

“The Virtual Days have gone well,” said Transylvania County Schools super-intendent Jeff McDaris. “This is especially true for students in grades 6 to 12 as the one-to-one ability with devices allows instructors to interact quickly and adjust. We know some students may not have regular Internet access; however, modules can be downloaded in advance just in case for those instances.”

McDaris said the school system has the ability to use one-to-one devices as low as third grade, but the school system is still in the Google classroom training stage for those grades and is obtaining resources to afford covers and extra chargers to make the one-to-one use feasible.

“We are still utilizing ‘Blizzard Bag’ materials for student work at home with parents, grandparents and guardians,” he said.

McDaris said last Monday was not a Virtual Day because so many residents and students had lost power. The Morris Education Center also lost power Monday.

“Our servers were down, which impacts some of our online accessibility,” said McDaris, who added that some specialty programs teachers utilize are stored on servers at the education center.

With power restored throughout more of the county and the servers up and working, Tuesday through Thursday were Virtual Days.

“We will make up Monday on a day in February,” he said. “The good news is we can switch those days, and as of right now we are not behind in instructional days like many of our neighbors. As we work to grow and improve our efforts, each event gives us the opportunity to improve for the next event.”

This weather event prevented Transylvania County Schools from opening until Friday due to poor conditions on secondary roads.

“The Department of Transportation has done a great job on the roads, and the City of Brevard and the town of Rosman also do a great job,” said McDaris. “Unfortunately, many people traveling to work or to the store encounter only main roads. Those are in good shape. But in the county, as well as in the City of Brevard, many roads have only one full lane open in the middle. This would force buses to drive down the middle of the road, straddling the yellow line.”

McDaris said higher daytime temperatures caused some thawing from the snow along roadsides, but the below freezing overnight temperatures then created black ice.

“Many of these stretches are longer than the distance between the axles of our buses. In addition, many bus turnaround locations on roads are partially blocked, preventing adequate room for a safe turnaround,” said McDaris. “Add to this the reality that with so many driveways and private roads impacted, there is a reduced adequate space for students to stand and wait on bus pickup in many locations. We don't want students having to stand in the roadways.”

McDaris also reported that there was “minimal damage to our structures from the storm.”

“Spots that have typically been leaking do not appear to be leaking any worse than during other heavy rain events,” said McDaris. “We do have some awnings that were under some strain from the weight of the snow, but they are holding and melting is helping. We will inspect those further after the snow is melted from them.”

Even though students were not in school for the first four days of last week, the Nutrition Services had a plan in place for fresh fruits and vegetables to be used.

“We had a really good advance warning on this one,” said McDaris. “It allowed Carolyn (Barton) to reduce some of her advanced orders on fresh fruit/vegetables, so we’ve really had minimal impact.”

“We take things to the soup kitchen, to Anchor and Sharing House and also to the jail,” said Barton, who added that quickly perishable items go to the kitchens and pantries. “Other items like onions, carrots, potatoes, we sometimes send to the jail.

“We try very hard not to have lots of leftovers and/or waste during these times and begin modifying menus and orders well in advance.

“Our vendors work with us and are very understanding. They don't want to run trucks and have to turn around, etc. Also, we canceled our USFoods Delivery on Tuesday and will do a modified delivery next Tuesday, and with that will have enough food in the house for regular menus through Jan 11.”

While the storm has had a minimal impact on academic work, it has created some other scheduling problems.

“Anytime you have a storm like this there is some impact, whether it be the flow of face-to-face instruction, family dynamics with their schedules, our concerts/events, and sports schedules, etc.,” said McDaris. “This one caused some restructuring of Senior Project presentations, as well as Christmas concerts, for example, but we are rescheduling those.”

Since the winter storm caused school to be closed over a large portion of the state, there has been some speculation that the state may waive the required days of attendance, as there was earlier this year for schools in the eastern part of the state that had to close due to the impact of Hurricane Florence.

“We are not aware of any discussion in Raleigh on this; however, there may be,” said McDaris. “Some of our mountain counties have already missed 11 days of school. Based on experience and history, we are not anticipating any calendar flexibility on the winter events thus far, but we still have over three months of potential winter weather ahead.

Brevard Academy

The winter weather also will not have a significant impact on the school calendar at Brevard Academy: A Challenge Foundation Academy.

Ted Duncan, director of Brevard Academy, said, “Brevard Academy follows the 1,025 hour state statute for school calendar creation. When creating our calendar, we add extra hours due to weather events, such as the past storm. These extra hours allow us to plan our calendar more effectively and protect scheduled breaks.”

Duncan said people ask about Brevard Academy offering Virtual Days, but Duncan said charter schools are not allowed to offer them under current state law.

He said a few events have been rescheduled. The fourth through eighth grade music and art showcase will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 18, while the coffee fundraiser will take place today and tomorrow.

Duncan also reported that there was little damage to school property.

“We were lucky that we did not have any major impacts to the school beyond the closings and delays,” said Duncan. “We had one bus stop arm bend as a result of the weight of the snow, but no significant damage of note.”

Mountain Sun Community School

Since Mountain Community School is a private school, it does not have to follow any state requirements regarding the number of school days, so the storm has not impacted its calendar.

“We have a different kind of flexibility,” said Michael Brown, executive director of the school.

The school, which is located on the campus of the Brevard Music Center, was closed Monday through Wednesday.

Brown said the staff at the music center, Duke Energy and its subcontractors did an exceptional job of clearing the grounds so that school could reopen. The school did have to modify its drop off and pickup procedures due to the snow.

Since Mountain Sun focuses on hands-on, experiential education, the snow has been an asset for both project-based learning and recreation.

“The kids have been out playing in the snow and having a great time,” he said. “We love having school whenever we can.”


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