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Students coping with snow daze: Educators must cover same material in less time

Thursday, January 16, 2014 - 7:05 am

Because of winter weather, county students have lost between 20 and 36 hours in the classroom originally meant to help them master math, language arts and other essential lessons; and school officials plan to make up only part of that time.

Most of Johnson County’s public schools were closed Jan. 6-8 because of dangerous road conditions and frigid temperatures that lasted throughout most of last week. Schools that were open during the latter part of the week started two hours late.

Schools don’t have to make up two-hour delays that are weather-related, and the Indiana State Department of Education is offering schools the chance to apply for waivers so they won’t have to make up two of the days they missed last week. Center Grove, Clark-Pleasant, Edinburgh, Franklin and Greenwood schools all plan to apply for the waiver, school officials said.

Why waivers?

Student attendance is extremely important to school officials, as the more time a student spends in class the more time they have to master what’s been taught.

But school officials wanted to apply for the waiver because more winter storms could force them to cancel classes, and they wanted to avoid adding multiple days to the end of the semester, which can conflict with graduation ceremonies and family vacations, according to Clark-Pleasant director of curriculum and instruction Cameron Rains, Franklin Superintendent David Clendening and Greenwood Superintendent Kent DeKoninck.

But two fewer days in class and four to eight hours lost because of delayed starts means teachers have to adjust their lesson plans. They’ll need to combine lessons that were originally supposed to take two days into one, while lessons that will appear on the first round of Indiana’s ISTEP exam in two months will need to be taught more quickly, Rains and Clendening said.

Because students are receiving more information more quickly than originally intended, teachers could have more students than usual asking for help, Rains said.

“Largely, the burden falls upon all of the staff in the corporation,” he said. “We have the same tasks to complete, but we have a little bit less in the way of resources to get the job done.”

Adjustments possible

But because the snow days came before second semester had started for schools, as opposed to in February or March, teachers should have enough time to adjust their schedules and make sure students get any additional help that they need, the administrators said.

“The good news is, there’s a lot of days left where we can make those adjustments,” Rains said.

All area school districts have snow makeup days built into their schedule. Clark-Pleasant and Greenwood both now will have class on days in February when students originally were scheduled to stay home. Franklin will have a makeup day in March. But school districts don’t have enough makeup days built into the schedule to make up for all of the days that were lost last week, without adding days to the end of the school year.

Calendar changes

Most Johnson County school districts recently adjusted their calendars, shortening summer vacation so students have more time off during the fall and spring breaks. Rains said that, at Clark-Pleasant, some families are concerned that adding days at the end of the school year would make summer break even shorter.

Applying for the Indiana Department of Education waiver helps ensure that seniors won’t have to return to school to take finals or complete classes after commencement and that families will have enough time for vacations and other commitments, according to the administrators.

“It just gives us a little bit of a cushion, where we won’t be having to add on days at the end of the school year,” Rains said.