January 14, 2014

School year could be extended after winter blast

Superintendents glad to be 'back in routine' after winter blast

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — Area schools returned to school Monday after an extended week of winter vacation. An extra week out of school is bad enough, frustrated superintendents said, but an extra week backed up against winter vacation is just too much.

The three-week gap is a long time to be out of school, said Cindy Douglass, Caston School Corp. superintendent.

“It’s hard to get them up to speed when they’re away from school for an extended time,” Douglass said. “We’ll do what we can to get them back in that school routine.”

Michelle Starkey, Logansport Community Schools superintendent, agreed the extended time off hinders students’ routines.

“We want kids back in their routine,” Starkey said. “After a few weeks off, their mindset and focus change.”

One superintendent said the extended break was similar to starting school after summer break.

Students were ready to come back, see their friends and get going for the next semester, said Trudie Hedrick, superintendent at Southeastern.

Although frustration was expressed, all agreed safety was the biggest concern.

Throughout the blast of winter last week, superintendents worked closely with street and highway departments daily to determine if road conditions were safe for student transportation.

After information is given, a decision is made for schools to be in session, on a two-hour delay or canceled, said Pioneer superintendent Dave Bess.

“Sure it was frustrating. We have a calendar and it’s our obligation to honor that calendar,” Bess said. “Sometimes Mother Nature and student’s safety gets the priority.”

Starkey said school officials spent a lot of time traveling around and talking to city and county street and highway officials to check the road conditions. After driving for two hours Wednesday and Thursday to see if student drivers and buses would be able to get around, it was clear that “there was just no way,” Starkey said.

All school corporations in Cass County closed Monday and Tuesday. For those two days, schools will be able to apply for a waiver freeing them from the need to make up those days, said Daniel Altman, Indiana Department of Education spokesman.

Districts have to find a way to make up the additional three days off. Most schools applied to get Wednesday, Thursday and Friday waived as well, but have not received a response yet.

With it being only the second week of January, and the threat of more winter weather ahead, superintendents are worried about additional time off in the coming months.

“We hope this was the one hoorah as far as winter storms,” Douglass said.

The Caston School Corp.’s snow days are currently built in, but if the district experiences any more time off, additional days will have to be added to the end of the year.

Douglass doesn’t believe it would be beneficial to have more time at the end of the year.

“I never feel time lumped at the end is quality time,” Douglass said. “Everyone looks at it as extra time.”

Graduation at Logansport was set for June 1, but Starkey is recommending it be moved to June 8, she said.

If the days off for weather are not waived from IDOE, the last day of school will be pushed back from May 23 to June 2.

Superintendents will look to see if requested waivers are approved and if they are not, they will find a way to make up the lost days.

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.