The Washington Times-Herald

March 8, 2014

Different strokes for schools to make up days lost to snow

By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — All of the school systems in Daviess County had snow days built into their school calendars when the year began, but a cold and snowy winter has all of them trying to make days up.

Earlier this year the Indiana Department of Education gave waivers for two missed days and then later gave schools the option to make-up missed days by adding them to the end of the year, going to class on Saturday or extending school days to make up for lost instructional time. Barr-Reeve, North Daviess and Washington all have taken slightly different approaches to completing their school calendars.

Barr-Reeve decided to add the days to the end of the school year.

“We’re keeping a regular schedule for our school days,” said Superintendent Travis Madison. “When the DOE presented its options I talked with some of the other superintendents in the area, and then began consulting with our building administrators and staff. We respect their opinions and felt this would be the best way to handle the lost days.”

The rural nature of the Barr-Reeve school district added to the reasoning behind the decision. “We have some kids already that are on the bus for one and one half to two hours,” said Madison. “Those kids are already facing some very long days.”

At North Daviess school officials have gone with extended days by adding instructional time to the end of the day. Those extended days will stop after April 4.

“We felt this would only disrupt the families of the kids once a day,” said North Daviess School Superintendent Robert Bell. “We also looked at some of our extra-curricular activities and realized that all of our spring programs would be in full swing by April 7. Running a longer day after that would create a lot of scheduling problems. We added one more day at the end of the year and now will have school on May 27.”

The longer school day has led to some adjustments to the way teachers and staff present instruction. “The kids seem to be reacting very well to it,” said Bell. “We surveyed the teachers at the elementary and asked them how it is going. They report the change is going good. One teacher said she loved having the extra instructional time. Another said that with the enhanced hands on projects they can do her class doesn’t want to leave in the afternoon. I think it’s really been positive.”

At Washington, making up time has been a matter of grabbing as many hours as possible out of the existing school calendar and adding time to both the beginning and end of the school day. Students will go to school on Good Friday and an early release day was canceled. Student reporting time was moved up to 7:40 a.m. at the high school and junior high and dismissal time was moved back to 3:55 p.m.

“We’re all appreciative that the DOE gave us these options,” said Washington School Superintendent Daniel Roach. “What I’m hearing, especially from the elementary teachers, is that the extra time is very useful.”

If there are no additional missed days because of weather, Washington should end the extended days on March 19. “Everyone has been very flexible on this,” said Roach.

One of the things having a big impact on the way schools make decisions on whether to extend their days is the statewide testing students face in the spring. “We surveyed our patrons and they said they wanted the extended days,” said Roach. “At the same time that testing drives instruction. The teachers are using the extra time to prep their students for the ISTEP and IREAD and ECA tests they will have in the spring. ISTEP is a key component in our effort to regain that instructional time.”

Barr-Reeve school officials also are concerned about the spring testing They just are going at preparing for the tests differently. “After we talked with our staff we felt we were in a decent position,” said Madison. “We have manipulated some of our home room and recess times to get more classroom work in. The teachers also planned ahead on snow days and sent home review packets the kids could work on. Our parents are so supportive and they have worked with the children and helped keep them sharp on those lost days. We have really tried to maximize the time available. We are just going to keep our nose to the grindstone.”