Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

April 4, 2014

Districts making plans for snow days

Mike James
The Independent

LLOYD — The ice and snow is gone, lawmakers have voted, and now rural school districts have gained some traction in efforts to finish the academic years.

Since the Kentucky General Assembly late last month hammered together an agreement relaxing requirements for completing academic schedules, school boards have been busy amending calendars and setting graduation dates.

Greenup County is the latest to do so when earlier this week its board set June 6 both as the last day of school and graduation day as well.

The Greenup board also set Election Day and Memorial Day as school days.

It was able to do so because the conditions the General Assembly set call for districts to do their utmost to reach 1,062 hours of instruction for the year, and allow them to seek the assistance of Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday to do so. Districts also can’t be forced to stay in school after June 6, even if they don’t have the required hours and may be open on primary election day if their schools aren’t used for voting.

Previously, all public schools were prohibited from opening on election days whether they housed polling places or not.

However, they cannot stretch the school day beyond seven hours.

Greenup County, which lost 28 days to snow and power-outage closures, will be able to get in 1,062 hours by June 6 after 171 instructional days. Before Gov. Steve Beshear signed the legislation into law, the district was looking at an end date in mid-June.

Extending school past the first week of June presents significant problems, among them being conflicts with vacation plans of both students and staff, Superintendent Steve Hall said.

Also, state law now requires accountability testing to be conducted during the last two weeks of the year, and districts don’t want the results to be skewed because students don’t attend or aren’t motivated.

One issue Greenup will have to work out involves teacher contracts, Hall said. Teachers are hired to work 185 days each year, 175 of them instructional days. Since now the year will be completed with 171 instructional days, that leaves four days in which to find meaningful work for faculty.

The district is working on setting up job-specific professional development sessions for its teachers, he said.

Lawrence County schools, which missed a whopping 34 days this winter, also will be able to meet the 1,062 hour requirement by June 6 and that will be the last day, according to personnel director Vernon Hall. The Lawrence board already had decided to omit spring break and hold classes on Memorial Day.

The coast is not entirely clear for Lawrence County, where roads are vulnerable to flooding in the spring. If such conditions close school again the district will work with the state education department on relief measures, Hall said.

“We were relieved the General Assembly came together,” Lawrence County Superintendent Mike Armstrong said. “Hopefully in April and May we can get some teaching and learning momentum.”

MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.