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Schools should be out by June 6

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Last day planned for May 23.

By Calen McKinney

 

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After much discussion, legislators have agreed on how school districts in Kentucky can make up time they lost when winter weather canceled classes this year.

But the districts in Taylor County have their own plans in the works that will see school dismissed for summer break just days after they had planned.

According to State Sen. Sara Beth Gregory, R-Monticello, in the agreement, school districts are still to try and reach 1,062 hours of lessons this year, and they can be made up however districts prefer.

"They need to submit a plan to the commissioner of education by May, 1, and he will approve it if they have made a good-faith effort to complete hours by availing themselves of all options, such as extending school days, taking spring break days, etc.," she said.

But, if by June 6, districts haven't been able to reach the 1,062 hours, Gregory said, any affected district can use that day as their closing day for students.

"I believe this plan will give local districts the flexibility to choose how best to structure their calendars for the remainder of the school year and the relief they needed due to the number of days missed because of winter weather," she said.

Gregory said there were bills filed to address the issue in the House and Senate, though negotiations stalled for a while before an agreement was made. Senate members approved the plan on Thursday and House of Representative members approved it Friday. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear was expected to sign it into law on Monday, March 31.

The first bill that passed the Senate, Gregory said, would allow schools to waive 10 school days, as long as they had used 10 makeup days and met the required 1,062 hours of instruction. Any district that hadn't met the hours could petition for a waiver. The House bill, Gregory said, would allow districts to waive 10 days of school, without any exceptions.

Gregory said it's been difficult to reach an agreement that fits the needs of all school districts.

But though an agreement has now been reached, it seems it won't really apply to those attending school in Taylor County. Top officials at Campbellsville and Taylor County say their districts won't have any trouble getting in the required hours of instruction.

Taylor County Superintendent Roger Cook said that during most school years, the local districts don't have to worry about not getting the required number of hours in before school recesses for summer break.

"However, if a bad winter does come, like this one, school boards should be allowed to decide how many days and hours of instruction to do," he said. "Right now, it is written in law 170 days and 1,062 hours and boards do not have the discretion to change it in any way."

The Taylor County district has missed 12 days of school this year and Cook says students have already made up 10 of them.

Early release Fridays were extended, which Cook said made up four days, and class was in session on Presidents Day.

And, Cook said, students will be in school this Friday. School had previously been canceled that day, with spring break the following week.

In addition to those changes to the calendar, Cook said, the district has enough "banked" time make up for five days missed. That leaves the district one day, or six hours, short.

"I will recommend to the board at [its] next meeting that we extend the school day for one hour for five days, or for 30 minutes for 10 days or for 15 minutes for 15 days. Any one of those options would make up one day of school."

Taylor County School Board members will next meet on Thursday, April 15, at 7 p.m. at the Board Office. The meeting is open to the public.

Once the schedule is set, Cook said, students will attend their last day of school on Friday, May 23, and graduation will be that day.

On Tuesday, April 1, Cook said, an arrangement has been made for Taylor County Schools to not be used as an election polling place on primary election day, Tuesday, May 20, so school will in session that day. That means, Cook said, he won't ask to extend the school day to make up instruction hours.

According to the school calendar, when it was adopted, the last day was planned for Monday, May 19.

Across town at Campbellsville Independent Schools, superintendent Mike Deaton said the district will make up the majority of its days missed by eliminating early release Fridays after spring break next week. And students in the district have already made up two days, he said.

The bills up for discussion, Deaton said, were written to help schools in eastern Kentucky that have missed more than 30 days.

Also, he said, schools will be allowed to attend on primary Election Day, which is Tuesday, May 20. Deaton said he will ask Campbellsville School Board members at their next meeting for permission to have school that day.

The board will meet Monday, April 14, at Campbellsville High School at 6 p.m. The meeting is open to the public.

If approved, Deaton said, and no more school days are canceled, Campbellsville students will also see their last day of school on Friday, May 23. Graduation will be the next day.

According to the school calendar, when it was adopted, the last day was planned for Monday, May 19.

At Kentucky Christian Academy, students have already made up three days they missed and been going to school for an extra 45 minutes each day in March.

To maintain accreditation, KCA students must meet the required 1,062 hours of instruction. KCA Administrator Lori Eubank said Board members will meet today to finalize their plan to make sure that happens. She said she isn't sure how much time her school has left to make up.

The last day at KCA, as set at the start of the school year, is planned for Tuesday, May 20.