Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

January 24, 2014

Officials concerned as snow days pile up

Mike James
The Independent

LOUISA — Officials in rural school districts are starting to worry after losing an entire week or more to snow, ice and cold.

Some districts have lost more days, and without a spell of warmer weather to melt snow and ice on country roads are likely to miss part of next week as well.

Greenup and Lawrence counties are perhaps in the worst shape; including today, Greenup has lost 11 days in January and Lawrence has lost nine. Monday was a holiday, so the two districts have only had a few instructional days since breaking for Christmas in December.

“The real calamity is the consistency of instruction,” Greenup Superintendent Steve Hall said.

His teachers already are dealing with regression issues from the long holiday break, and the longer school is out the more time they will have to devote to review, he said.

Missing school in winter means making up the days in May; Lawrence County was to have had its last day May 9, but instead will remain in session until late in the month, Superintendent Mike Armstrong said.

Until last year, the snow days would have made it difficult for teachers to cram in the amount of instruction they need to prepare students for yearly accountability testing. The tests were administered earlier in the spring, but now the Kentucky Department of Education allows districts to schedule the tests for the final two weeks of the school year.

There is no research to indicate whether extended lost days affect one age group disproportionately, Armstrong said. But Hall said he believes the impact is heaviest on younger children because at their developmental stage they require more consistency.

By middle and high school, children are more capable of doing independent study, he said.

The Carter County district has taken that into account with a new program to prepare its juniors for the ACT test, according to Superintendent Ronnie Dotson. All Kentucky high school juniors are required to take the test March 4, and the date can’t be adjusted because of snow days, he said.

The students are encouraged to use a test-prep program they can access from their homes; if they use the program for 18 hours, they are eligible to miss three days at the end of the school year, Dotson said.

Under an arrangement with the state education department, the students are not considered absent for purposes of state per-pupil funding, he said.

The program includes provisions to ensure students are actively engaged and will log off automatically if no activity is detected after a certain time, he said.

Research has shown a one-point improvement in ACT scores for every 10 hours spent on the program’s tutorials, he said.

Some of Carter’s elementaries are keeping their doors open during school days and allowing parents to drop off their children during the day for informal educational activities.

The arrangement works for parents who need to get to work and keeps children in a learning environment, Dotson said.

Boyd County schools have lost nine days including today, said Assistant Superintendent Tamela Martin. “Last week was great, we were here every day. If we get back next week, we can pick back up,” she said.

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