Debate rages about Saturday school days

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Children in Virginia Beach went to school for the first of three Saturdays they’ll attend to make up for snow days.

In the community, debate rages about that decision. The Virginia Beach Education Association came out against it.

President Trenace Riggs called on the district to waive those make up days.

“VBCPS employees should be treated professionally and fairly at all times,” she wrote in a statement. “This includes understanding the damaging impact of the current makeup schedule has on employee morale and the impact employee morale has on the quality of education.”

Virginia Beach City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Sheila Magula would not comment in person, on the phone, or via email on how the first make up day went.

VBCPS did choose one school for 10 On Your Side to visit. New Castle Elementary School reported 81 percent attendance. On a normal school day, attendance averages 89 to 92 percent of students.

10 On Your Side asked repeatedly for numbers from other schools.

A spokeswoman for the district had at first said some may be made available today. She later reneged, saying those numbers would be speculative.

New Castle’s principal, Lesley Hughes, said she did not receive any complaints from parents about the Saturday makeup days.

“That’s one school,” Riggs said in response. “I’m getting calls, I’m getting feedback emails, so I just didn’t hear from one school. I’m hearing from 86, and I’m not only hearing from teachers, but I’m hearing from employees and teachers about – how can we let this happen?”

10 On Your Side viewers weighed in on social media.

“My son said [his] teacher could not do plans with seven students in his period one class — so they just sat for the entire block,” wrote Kathryn Jennings on Facebook.

Parent Carol Miller said her two daughters went to class at First Colonial High School.

“It was hard getting up at 6 a.m. We were up late, they were up late. But what are you going to do? It has to be done. It’s just one of those things, you’ve got to pay the toll,” said Miller.

She said a lot of students made it to her daughters’ classes Saturday. The head count for Kathryn Jennings’ son’s classes was different.

“I was a little surprised, at the beginning, not to see more. But then again understanding everybody’s schedule, last-minute a three-day weekend for some families,” said Jennings.

Jennings said there were seven kids in her son’s class of 33 at First Colonial High School, but in other classes almost everyone was there.

“Based upon the number of students that showed up, I felt for the teachers. I really feel, as a past teacher, that it was not effective use of time.  I mean, it should have been, could have been, but it’s kind of hard to do that when you only have a portion of your class show up,” Jennings said.

The next Saturday make up days are March 29 and April 26.

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