Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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March 17, 2014

State Senate crafts plan for snow day relief

FRANKFORT — School superintendents, teachers, parents and students in many parts of the state are unable to plan spring breaks, graduation ceremonies and summer vacations because schools are going to have to make up days lost to winter weather.

They just don’t know how or how many. And they’re going to have to wait at least another day or so to find out from the legislature.

The state Senate Monday passed a bill crafted by Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, and officials at the Kentucky Department of Education, which attempts to strike a balance between the need to help some districts have missed more than 30 days of instruction and the desire to ensure students aren’t short-changed on learning.

The bill would require districts to submit an amended school calendar to KDE that shows how the district plans to provide the statutorily required 1,062 hours of instruction during the 2013-14 school year and do so without extending the school day beyond seven hours.

If districts have utilized all days built into its original calendar for bad weather and used up all other available options, they can appeal to Dr. Terry Holliday, the state Commissioner of Education, for relief.

Kay Kennedy, director of District Support for KDE, told the Senate Education Committee that Holliday will work with districts on a case-by-case basis and “could waive the 1,062 hour requirement.”

Districts are supposed to build days into their school calendars for bad weather based on the highest number of missed days in any of the past three years. But it’s been an unusually severe winter and some districts have missed up to 34 days.

Because many families have made travel and housing arrangements for spring and early summer vacations, districts are reluctant to use spring break days or to extend the calendar too far into June. Some lawmakers have also been concerned that extending school after the two-week, accountability testing window at the end of the year will produce little educational benefit.

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