Snow days snowball

2011-01-28T23:00:00Z 2011-01-30T19:58:07Z Snow days snowballMARLA TONCRAY Ledger Independent
January 28, 2011 11:00 pm  • 

With 12 days of school missed because of snow in Mason County, the last day of school has been pushed back to Monday, June 6, for now.

The original school calendar had students' last day as May 19.

Friday's snow day brought the total for January to 8; four days were missed prior to December's holiday break, said Gerald Fulk, Mason County transportation director.

Already, officials have decided Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 21, will be used as a make-up day.

Overall, Moore and Fulk said each available day will be considered for make-up days, because unlike the state of Ohio, Kentucky school districts are not granted calamity days by the state legislature.

"If we miss so many days, we'll have to look at everything. We've got a long way to go" said Moore, referring to two more months of winter and predictions of a heavy snowfall next week.

When asked if the Board of Education and he would look at using spring break days, which have been off-limits in years past because of interruptions to family vacation or state tournament plans, Moore said "everything becomes an option once you miss so many days."

Both said making up days on Saturday could be explored, but Moore said in counties that have implemented that plan, attendance is sometimes only 50 percent.

In 2010, Mason County missed 11 days; 10 for snow and 1 for flooding in May.

Districts can apply to the Kentucky Department of Education for calamity days, but must make up the first 20 days missed anyway.

Determining whether or not to cancel school is balanced between several factors, Fulk said. Watching weather forecasts at night; knowing if state and county road crews have begun working on the roads; and then actually driving the roads in the early morning hours, which is done by Fulk and Larry Brewer, and sometimes Moore. Fulk said the critical thing to consider is what condition the roads will be like when the 33 bus drivers begin their routes, which is as early as 6:30 a.m., with the first pickup of children around 7 p.m.

Mandatory state tests, crucial to federal funding, are scheduled for the last two weeks of April.

The mounting number of school closures puts school boards in a tight spot, said Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School Boards Association, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Frankfort that represents all public school districts in the state.

State law requires Kentucky's public schools to provide at least the equivalent of 177 six-hour days or 1,062 instructional hours, said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

Some options being considered are canceling teacher in-service days and having the kids attend school instead, holding Saturday classes, adding hours to the school day and asking state lawmakers to grant a waiver from some make-up days.

"That's one of those things that is really a double-edged sword issue, if you will," Hughes said about possible legislation seeking waivers. "Folks that have gone even on tough days are not so sympathetic for the folks that have closed a lot of days."

Officials in the 4,500-student Knox County school system in the mountains of eastern Kentucky have already had 20 snow days this school year, and they now have a plan to limit snow days in the future, said system spokesman Frank Shelton.

Called "Plan B," the school system will alter the bus routes on days when most of the county roads are driveable and only a few might be impassable. That way, the schools can remain open and fewer than 100 students would be impacted, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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