State: Make up snow days with added full days

Published 8:46 am Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The State Board of Education is recommending that school districts replace lost time with full days of instruction instead of adding hours to the remaining days on their existing school calendars.

Superintendent John Jarpe, of Brandywine Community Schools, said although it makes more sense to make up whole days from a pure learning standpoint, adding hours to some days might be the most realistic option.

There are several reasons for this, he said, including that adding days to the end of the year could interfere with families who have already booked travel time and hinder students’ ability to get summer jobs.

“If they’re still in school, someone else may get that important job,” Jarpe said.

Current state law requires school districts to offer at least 1,098 hours of instruction for the 2013-14 school year. State law also recognizes that circumstances outside of the control of a school district, such as severe weather, may cause schools to be closed unexpectedly. The law provides for up to six such days to be counted toward those 1,098 hours without loss of state aid. Any days beyond the six allowed must be replaced for the district to receive its full amount of state funding.

Many schools statewide have already exceeded that limit due to the extreme winter, including schools locally.

Legislation (House Bill 5285) has been introduced to allow school districts to make up those additional days beyond the six allowed by adding minutes onto each day remaining on their school calendars.

“Whatever the options or choices might be, I do hope the legislature decides the options or any changes to the rules soon, so we can work with teachers, come up with a good solution, and notify our communities,” Jarpe said.

Last week, the State Board of Education adopted a statement saying a better solution would be to make up missed days with full days of student instruction. Their reasoning is that the majority of studies for extended school year programs indicate that participation in extended year schools is associated with favorable achievement outcomes.

“Full replacement days offer every student the full extent of quality instruction that they missed when the school was closed,” said the State Board of Education in a statement. “This method allows teachers to complete their full lesson plans with integrity and provide students with the appropriate depth of instruction they need to meet their instructional goals for every class. This is the better strategy to ensure that students will be ready for career, college, and community.”