January 26, 2014

OUR VIEW: Winter pushing school into summer


---- — Bitterly cold temperatures and blustery conditions pushed wind chills to 20 degrees below zero have been forcing many area schools to close their doors.

Winter’s chill will stay a while longer. We again find ourselves in the midst of another mercury plunge this weekend, this time with the temperature falling to double digits below zero.

After the Jan. 5 snowstorm that buried the Logansport area, the state Department of Education offered school districts that were closed Monday and Tuesday of that week waivers from the required 180 days schools must be in session each year.

The waiver means schools can escape the “very severe financial penalty” they would otherwise incur by canceling one day of instruction, George Frampton, director of the office of accreditation for the education department, told The Elkhart Truth.

This waiver has been used before. Will it be offered again? Winter isn’t over. Local school administrators likely fear their school years extending far into June.

Though Indiana and most other states seem to have settled on 180 as the magic number of school days, there really doesn’t appear to be much educational basis for that. Neighboring Ohio requires 182 days, but there’s no data showing Ohio students are two days’ smarter. Illinois sets the number at 176, and again, it’s hard to say students there are coming up short in the classroom.

Certainly, there might be times when outside events force a change in the school calendar. In the late 1970s, a blizzard and coal strike forced schools to shut down for weeks at a time. Clearly, there was no way for teachers to get through the course work without a change in the schedule.

In a case like that, school administrators would be the first to point out the need for some adjustments to the calendar, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

We’re talking about tacking on a few days to the end of the school year just so we can say the kids were in class the required number of days. Both students and teachers simply will be marking time.

We would favor a law that gave school administrators a bit more discretion. The goal here should be the best possible education, not the greatest number of days spent in the classroom.

THE ISSUE Bad winter means many make-up days OUR VIEW The goal should be the best possible education, not the greatest number of days spent in the classroom.