Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 14, 2014

Final word on snow days coming Monday

CNHI News Service

FRANKFORT — Local school officials will have to wait until at least Monday to know how much they’ll have to adjust calendars to account for days missed because of winter weather.

The Kentucky Senate planned to take up a bill Friday morning to give districts flexibility in making up the lost days, but a vote postponed action until Monday.

The House went ahead with its own version of a bill, passing it 82-8. House Bill 410 sponsored by Rep. John Will Stacy, D-Morehead, would allow local superintendents and school boards to eliminate up to 10 days of school without losing state funding for those days.

But the Senate thinks it’s more complicated than just waiving 10 days because of the disparity in the number of lost days between districts. Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, attempted to craft a bill which would still require school districts to utilize any days built into their calendars for bad weather to minimize lost instructional time and also require districts to have missed a minimum of 10 days before they could waive any days.

That apparently created confusion because some districts have at least 10 such days built into their calendars while others might have missed fewer days but be allowed to waive more because they had fewer makeup days built into their calendars.

School districts must build into their annual calendars a number of makeup days for bad weather, a number based on the average number of missed days in the most recent years. But this year’s severe weather has forced some districts, especially many in eastern Kentucky, to miss as many as 30 days or more.

Givens and Senate Education Committee Chairman Mike Wilson, R-Bowling Green, said Friday that it is proving difficult to meet every district’s particular needs with a measure which still ensures districts capture as much instructional time as possible. Consequently, they said they planned to work on improving the bill over the weekend and would address it on Monday. Givens also warned that no measure would satisfy every district’s individual situation or needs.

But the House, which had planned to consider the Senate bill Friday after the upper chamber passed it, went ahead with Stacy’s bill. It grants the local districts discretion to waive up to 10 days with few restrictions.

Rep. Bart Rowland, R-Tompkinsville, reminded his colleagues who important the legislation is to school officials, students and parents back home.

On Thursday when the House held a contentious debate over the new two-year state budget, Rowland said, he got more phone calls and messages from back home about the school calendar than about the budget.

Republican Adam Koenig of Erlanger and Democrat Jim Wayne of Louisville questioned whether it isn’t more important for students to get all of the required instructional time rather than accommodating spring break or summer vacation plans. They were joined by only six others in voting against the bill.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, and House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, have urged quick action on the school calendars so districts can arrange the rest of the school year.

RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.