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‘Tornado days’ not likely to make school calendars

By Bayne Hughes
hughes@decaturdaily.com · 340-2432

While they would prefer students to be at home during a tornado warning, local school superintendents say they aren’t likely to add more “weather days” to deal with such threats.

A survey of school systems in The Daily’s coverage area found that Hartselle and Athens city systems and Morgan and Limestone counties scheduled two weather days in their 2007-08 school calendars, while Lawrence County has three and Decatur only one.

School systems schedule off-days in the spring semester as makeup days if weather forces cancellation.

State law requires 180 instruction days per school year. If a school system doesn’t need a makeup day, it becomes a vacation day.

Calling off school

Lawrence County was the only local system to call off school March 1, the day a tornado destroyed Enterprise High School and killed eight. Superintendent Dexter Rutherford said his system will make up that day March 16, but it’s rare that it needs every weather day. The other systems held school and sent students home early, so they won’t need a makeup day.

Morgan County Superintendent Bob Balch said tornado watches are so prevalent in North Alabama that it would be impossible to plan ahead or let school out for every one.

Decatur Superintendent Sam Houston said his system hasn’t used more than one weather day in the last five or six years, so he eliminated the excess days.

“We treat every situation differently.” Houston said. “So it would be hard to make a blanket statement like, ‘We’re going to send everyone home every time there’s a tornado warning.’ ”

The county systems have longer bus routes, and the superintendents said they need at least two hours before a storm arrives to get everyone home.

When a storm is slow moving and weather officials are giving 12 to 24 hours’ notice, they are more likely to call off the school day.

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