Charleston School Board forgives weather day for teachers, staff

The Charleston County School Board voted Monday to forgive an inclement weather day for teachers and staff instead of requiring them to use a personal, sick or vacation day to make-up the time.

The board voted unanimously to forgive the day after hearing from concerned teachers over the last week who were upset the district would require them to use a personal or sick day to cover a canceled school day on Feb. 24. School officials decided to close school for the day due to forecasted freezing rain.

“When we do have inclement weather whose responsibility is it financially to make up that day?” asked School Board member the Rev. Chris Collins. “Does the burden fall on the teachers or is it the school district?

“I was told that the teachers were asked to use their sick leave time or personal time for that weather day, so if that’s the truth that’s saying they’re responsible for the day?” Collins asked school officials.

The state Department of Education does not dictate how school districts handle weather-related make-up days for teachers and staff, only students. How teachers and staff are compensated for a weather day is up to school districts.

Students will make up the day on March 27, which was previously scheduled as a teacher work day.

Acting Superintendent Michael Bobby said teachers and staff were informed in a January bulletin that one option for covering weather days would be to use sick, personal or vacation leave.

But Bobby said for “morale,” the district decided to go another way.

“We’re simply asking you to forgive that (day),” he said.

The issue, said School Board member Kate Darby, is that the make-up day for students was already a work day for teachers, so it doesn’t count as a make-up day for them. Darby said she supported forgiving the day and then finding a long-term solution.

“How can we have (make-up) days in the future so we don’t have to use workdays?” Darby said.

The entire discussion was a ridiculous one to Patrick Hayes, director of advocacy group EdFirstSC.

“I’m very glad to hear that teachers will be forgiven for not coming to work when they were told not to come to work,” Hayes said to the board.

Hayes, who is a teacher at Drayton Hall Elementary, called the district’s policy “inappropriate,” saying there is no state law requiring teachers to make-up or cover missed days.

In an interview Hayes said he heard from numerous teachers last week upset at the prospect of using leave to cover a day they were told not to come to work.

“What upset people is the idea that we had to provide something because the administration wouldn’t provide it,” he said.

In a separate action Monday the board removed an agenda item regarding a new contract for bus services after discussing the matter in a closed meeting. The school district has received proposals from three transportation companies.

The school district last month issued a letter of intent to award a new five-year contract to Durham School Services, which currently provides school bus transportation for Charleston County, pending approval by the board.