Originally created 03/03/00

Waiver for class gets OK



COLUMBIA -- Legislation allowing South Carolina schoolchildren to miss up to five days this year because of inclement weather passed the state Senate on Thursday.

State Sen. Tommy Moore, D-Clearwater, is primary sponsor of the bill. The measure means pupils might not have to make up classes that were canceled because of Hurricane Floyd in September and January's snowstorm.

The legislation goes to the House next week after getting a 43-1 vote in the Senate. The lone holdout was state Sen. Greg Ryberg, R-Aiken.

"It is the responsibility of the General Assembly to set public policy in this state relative to education," Mr. Ryberg said. "And that policy is mandating that our children attend 180 instructional days of school and for good reason. We want to move up the educational ladder. Instructional time is what improves test scores."

School was dismissed in September throughout the state when Hurricane Floyd battered the coast. Aiken County closed school for one day that month because many of its schools were turned into temporary evacuation shelters.

In addition, an abrupt winter snowstorm halted classes for a day in January in Aiken County schools. Pupils in Edgefield and McCormick counties were dismissed for two days.

At least 30 legislative bills requesting waivers are floating through the House and Senate, but lawmakers want to agree on one solution for all South Carolina schools.

Mr. Moore's bill leaves the number of days missed to the discretion of local school boards.

"This legislation will not harm our kids," Mr. Moore said. "And it doesn't mean that we don't want them getting the high-quality education they deserve. But school administrators aren't in the business of predicting hurricanes and snowstorms."

Another bill also in the House awaits another key vote. It would allow school districts to reduce their 180-day school calendars this year by three days.

Some legislators aren't sure the waiver is wise.

"Children belong in school," said state Rep. John Graham Altman, R-Charleston. "They're asking us to shorten the school year. That's insane. It goes against everything we're trying to do."

Reach Chasiti Kirkland at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.