Fayette County schools officially made up three “ice days” from January last week during what had been scheduled to be a week of winter break. More than half of the county’s high school students decided to take a full week off anyway, according to figures supplied by the school system’s central office.
About three times as many teachers as usual did not show up for classes for the three make-up days, compared to normal absenteeism. That translates to about 10 percent of the total teacher workforce on break.
The classes held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, by a January vote of the Fayette County Board of Eduction, were not meant to conflict with the pre-arranged time off scheduled by teachers and students. The absentee rate during those three days fluctuated widely across the school system, both with students and teachers.
Though the numbers vary from school to school, the elementary schools had fewer student absences on Tuesday and Wednesday with a larger number of absences on Thursday.
All totaled, the school system’s 17 elementary schools had a 27.82 percent student absentee rate on Tuesday, a 27.7 percent rate on Wednesday and a 33.64 percent absentee rate on Thursday.
Fayette middle and high schools showed a larger spread in the number of absences during the three-day period.
The rate of student absences at middle schools for the three make-up days showed 37.68 percent out of school on Tuesday, 41.29 percent on Wednesday and 50.49 percent on Thursday.
And at the county’s high schools, 50.65 percent of students did not attend school on Tuesday, while 56.76 were absent on Wednesday and 63.14 percent were absent on Thursday.
The Fayette County Board of Education in January voted unanimously to make up three of the five days lost to the ice-laden winter storm that saw schools closed all week in Fayette County and across the northern half of Georgia. The state has four emergency days built in to the 180-day school year.
Asked by the board for his recommendation, Superintendent Jeff Bearden suggested that the system make up three of the five days. His recommendation included the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the winter break period that ran Feb. 21-25.
Bearden also noted that some families and employees might have pre-arranged plans for the winter break week, plans that might not be able to be altered.
Along with their unanimous vote to approve the three make-up days, the board agreed that accommodations would be made for students and employees unable to alter their winter vacation plans.
There were also a number of teachers whose plans led to their absence on one or more of the ice days. System-wide, there were 389 teacher absences on Tuesday, 366 on Wednesday and 417 on Thursday. Those absences varied significantly from school to school.
It should be noted that, in a school district with more than 3,000 employees, the school system normally averages approximately 130 teacher absences per day.
Elementary schools saw an average of 10.5 teachers not in school on Tuesday, followed by similar numbers on Wednesday and Thursday.
Peachtree City Elementary had the fewest teacher absences with an average of 2.7 per day while Kedron Elementary and Sara Harp Minter averaged nearly 20. The county’s elementary schools average approximately 506 students each, with the lowest enrollment coming at Tyrone Elementary at 349 and the highest enrollment numbers at Peeples Elementary at 666.
An average of 15 middle school teachers took off the make-up day on Tuesday, followed by an average of 13 on Wednesday and approximately 18 on Thursday. Fayette’s middle schools average 848 students each.
At the county’s five high schools, an average of 23 teachers were absent on Tuesday followed by 25 on Wednesday and 27 on Thursday. Fayette’s average high school enrollment is 1,453 students.
Classes during the ice days were handled either by combining classes or with substitute teachers.