Sunday, January 26, 2003

Snow days challenge schools


But hey, kids, it's been worse

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

January's not even over, but two Northern Kentucky school districts - Owen and Pendleton counties - already have to make up seven snow days.However, students in those rural systems won't be the last ones sitting in class this summer. As of Friday, that honor belonged to Kenton County Schools, Northern Kentucky's second-largest school system.

Kenton County's 12,287 students have missed only four days this winter because of snow or bitter cold. But construction projects at several schools pushed back the start of the current school year nearly two weeks last fall.

The school board's decision to add snow makeup days to the end of the school year means that Kenton County students' last day is now June 11 - a date that could be pushed back as late as June 13, if students miss two more days of school.

After that, any days missed will be made up by adding at least 15 minutes to each school day, school officials say.

If today's students think they have it rough, they should listen to some of their parents' stories from the winters of the late 1970s. From the 1976-77 through the 1978-79 school years, record snowfalls prompted many rural districts in Kentucky to close for dozens of days.

Students in the Owen County School Districtmissed a total of 95 days those three years because of weather-related closures, and racked up a record 42 snow days in the 1977-78 school year alone.

Lisa Gross, who now works as a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education, remembers that school year well.

As a sophomore in the Laurel County school system in rural south-central Kentucky, Ms. Gross missed at least six weeks of school in the winter of 1977-'78.

"We lived on a gravel road in the middle of nowhere and had 36 inches of snow,'' Ms. Gross recalled. "A lot of people were actually stranded in their homes.''

During the time Ms. Gross attended high school, snow makeup days canceled all of her spring breaks - a practice most districts avoid today because of family vacations.

Today, Kentucky's public school districts have a number of options for providing the required 1,050 hours of annual instruction in the face of inclement weather.

"The state looks at instructional time on an hour-by-hour basis to give districts more flexibility,'' Ms. Gross said.

"That way, if a district needs to make up an hour (because of a delay), it can make up an hour, not a day.''

As a school day has six hours, a school system is allowed five one-hour delays before it has to count its delays as a missed snow day, Ms. Gross said.

A district can make up its snow days by adding days to the end of the school year, holding school on in-service days or holidays, lengthening the school day, and, in rare cases, holding Saturday school.

In districts such as Erlanger-Elsmere Independent Schools, where most students walk to school or are driven by their parents, school is rarely canceled because the district doesn't have to bus students.

"For the kids who have to walk to school or wait on buses, there's the chill factor,'' said Dave Feldmann, student affairs and safety coordinator for Campbell County Schools. "You also have school buses that refuse to start up sometimes when the temperature is zero or below.''

In the Diocese of Covington, which has 28 elementary and nine high schools in eight counties, the far-flung geography means the decision to close is made on a school-by-school basis, said Gene Kuehne, who's in business services for the Diocese of Covington's Department of Education.

Although Kentucky school districts can hold classes through June 30 to make up days lost because of inclement weather, state and local educators couldn't remember a system ever doing that.

Many teachers hold summer jobs or work on advanced degrees during their summer vacation. Summer breaks also are about the only time that districts can do maintenance or major construction, said Rob Haney, director of support operations and safety for Kenton County Schools.

In some of the larger rural districts, parents may question why school is called off when they don't see a flake of snow or slick roads in their immediate neighborhood, school officials said.

On Thursday, for example, roads in northern Kenton County weren't too bad, Mr. Haney said. "But we had significant snowfalls in the southern end, especially on the Campbell County line,'' he said. "It was so cold that the treatments weren't taking effect immediately.''

"No matter which way we call it, we're always going to get a few complaints,'' said David Davis, director of student services for Erlanger-Elsmere Independent Schools. "If we call an hour delay, some people will say, `Why not cancel?' And if we cancel, others will ask why we canceled. All we can do is act on the available information.''

E-mail cschroeder@enquirer.com

N. Ky. school snow days by district

Bellevue Independent
• Snow days: None. Have had one one-hour delay.
• Makeup days: If needed, students would attend June 6 and 9 to make up days missed.
• Last day of school for students: June 4.

Boone County Schools
• Snow days: Three snow days and three one-hour delays.
• Makeup days: By adding 10 minutes to each school day, the district has banked enough time to cover four days missed because of snow or inclement weather. After four snow days, each additional day missed will be added on to the end of the school year.
• Last day of school for students: May 16.

Campbell County Schools
• Snow days: Four snow days plus five one-hour delays.
• Makeup days: The district has five days built into the calendar. If the system misses another full day, or has one more hour delay, it would use the final day built into the calendar. After that, each additional day missed will be added onto the end of the school year.
• Last day of school for students: May 29.

Covington Independent Schools
• Snow days: None. Have had four one-hour delays.
• Makeup days: Would first use student non-attendant days, or days off after in-service days, then in-service days and holidays, as needed.
• Last day of school for students: May 23.

Dayton Independent Schools
• Snow days: None. Have had two one-hour delays.
• Makeup days: Would add days on to the end of the calendar as needed.
• Last day of school for students: June 6.

Erlanger-Elsmere Independent Schools
• Snow days: One. Also have had three one-hour delays.
• Makeup days: Add them on to the end of the calendar.
• Last day of school for students: June 2.

Kenton County Schools
• Snow days: Four. Also have had two one-hour delays.
• Makeup days: Days missed will be added onto the end of the school year through June 13. If the district has six snow days, any additional days missed will be made up by adding at least 15 minutes onto the end of each school day.
• Last day of school for students: June 11.

Ludlow Independent Schools
• Snow days: One. Also have had three one-hour delays.
• Makeup days: Will add days to the end of the school year as needed to make up snow days.
• Last day of school for students: May 30.

Newport Independent Schools
• Snow days: None. Have had two one-hour delays.
• Makeup days: Would add to the end of the calendar.
• Last day of school for students: May 29.

Owen County Schools
• Snow days: Seven, including a day school was closed for a water main break.
• Makeup days: After four days were added onto the end of the school year, the district agreed to use Feb. 17, Presidents Day, as a makeup day. After that, days will be added in June.
• Last day of school for students: June 3.

Pendleton County Schools
• Snow days: Seven.
• Makeup days: The district first adds days onto the end of the school year. Once the district gets to May 30, it starts using in-service days, then adds onto the calendar through June. The district has already used Jan. 17 as a snow makeup day and plans to use Feb. 14 as a snow makeup day. If the system misses one more day, students' last day would be June 2.
• Last day of school for students: May 30.

Silver Grove Independent Schools
• Snow days: None. Three one-hour delays.
• Makeup days: Would take spring break, then add on to the end of the year.
• Last day of school for students: June 4.

Southgate Independent Schools
• Snow days: None.
• Makeup days: Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, then Good Friday.
• Last day of school for students: May 29.

Walton-Verona Independent Schools
• Snow days: Six, including one day missed because of a fire that closed streets in Verona. Also have had two one-hour delays.
• Makeup days: Made up one snow day in December and will make up another on Feb. 17, Presidents Day. Other days missed will be added onto the end of the school year.

Covington Diocese
• Snow days and makeup plans vary by individual schools. Some make up days missed by adding days at the end of the school year, while others may lengthen school days to make up days missed.




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