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February 9, 2014

MORE TIME ON THEIR HANDS: State makes room for snow days, ISTEP+ extension

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — With options for making up snow days and pushing back ISTEP+ testing from the State Board of Education, school districts in the area are figuring out how to take advantage of both opportunities as missed days grow.

According to Associated Press reports, Glenda Ritz, superintendent of public instruction, along with the board of education, said districts could earn a waiver for weather cancellations by tacking on an extra hour to school days or giving instruction on weekends, provided they have the technical means to do so.

“It would be what I call a conditional waiver,” Ritz said. “You apply for the waiver and you say: ‘We want to waive these number of days and this is how we will make up the time.”’

Six additional hours would make up for one school day, but districts may need to figure out how that would work into their already agreed-upon contracts with their teachers unions.

Frank Denton, president of the Greater Clark County Schools Education Association, said along with state-mandated changes in their contracts on what they could negotiate with districts, he plans on checking with the Indiana State Teachers Association’s attorneys to see how it matches up with their terms.

He also said however it works out, he wants to make sure teachers are fairly compensated for any additional time they put in.

Erin Bojorquez, supervisor of communications for Greater Clark, said administrators haven’t had an opportunity to discuss the conditional waiver, but will meet Tuesday afternoon.

Greater Clark is the only district in Clark and Floyd counties not using the second week of their spring break — which they use for additional instruction for students who want or need it — to make up snow days.

In West Clark Community Schools, John Reed, assistant superintendent, said they’re not in too bad of shape with snow days since they can use part of their spring break. But if more inclement weather comes in, they may have to examine the opportunity.

“It’s definitely an issue that would have to be discussed with the [teachers] association,” Reed said. “Right now, if we continue missing days, it’ll be another story. But for now, we’re in good shape.”

At Clarksville Community Schools, Superintendent Kim Knott said she’s more concerned about keeping bodies in the classroom than making up days for now.

“My biggest concern is our attendance rate,” Knott said in an email. “We were in school 17 days in January, and our attendance rate has suffered greatly. That is one of our biggest concerns going forward.”

But pushing back ISTEP+ and IREAD 3 will help give more instruction time for districts that were lost with snow days. The State Board of Education voted to push back the first testing day for the applied skills portion of ISTEP nearly three weeks, from March 3 to March 21.

Reed said he’s glad there’s more time to prepare, but it’s also nice that all the tests — including End of Course Assessments for high schoolers, acuity and others — won’t cram together.

“I’m glad they did because we’re starting to get all our testing backed up,” Reed said. “We’re getting pinched terribly with trying to figure out how to get all of our kids in the lab since we do everything online now. This will give us a little breathing room.”

Phone calls for comment to officials at the New Albany-Floyd County Consolidated School Corp. were not returned by press time.

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5-year-old Nicholas Garrison is handed a lemon drop, while 6-year-old Thomas and 4-year-old Walker Sturgeon, try theirs at Schimpff's Confectionery Friday afternoon in Jeffersonville.

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