Manassas Journal Messenger | School snow days not a problem for county, cities

Prince William County’s schools have been closed six times during the 2004-2005 school year, but the school day is long enough to provide an extra cushion for make-up days, according to school officials.

The school division has three inclement weather days built into its 183-day calendar this year, and it surpassed that when schools were closed Friday.

“Now, we’re already into the hours that we’ve banked,” said Holly Hess, director of the planning and assessment office.

Since the elementary school day has been extended from the state minimum of five-and-a-half hours to six hours this year, the banked hours provide 90 hours, or 15 additional days, of instruction.

While Manassas and Manassas Park’s schools had delayed openings on Tuesday, that day marked a four-day stretch of snow closings for the county’s schools.

Driving conditions on the eastern end of the county had improved considerably by Tuesday, but unsafe roads and other areas in the western end of the county, from Manassas to the Loudoun County border north of Interstate 66, prompted the decision to close schools again, according to Bernard Godek, associate superintendent for school services.

Students in Virginia are required to have 180 instructional days and 990 instructional hours per school year. Those requirements are based on a five-and-half-hour school day. Most school divisions include extra and longer days in their calendars to account for days missed due to inclement weather.

Both Manassas’ and Manassas Park’s school divisions have been less inclined to close schools because of snow. Their small size — there are 11 schools between them — make transporting students less of a challenge, according to officials.

Manassas has used three of the four emergency closing days built into its 184-day calendar. About 15 hours of banked time still remain at the elementary school level, according to Assistant Superintendent John Boronkay.

Manassas Park’s schools are unlikely to be at a loss for make-up days. It has used two of the five inclement weather days built into its 185-day calendar.

“And we have one of the longest school days of anyone in Northern Virginia,” said Associate Superintendent Gail Pope.

With an instructional day of about six-and-a-half hours at the elementary school, Manassas Park has about 180 hours, or 25 additional days, banked. The amount is even greater when factoring in the state minimum of five-and-half days.

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