Schools weigh whether to use weather waiver

Herald Staff Writer

The Christmas holiday is long over, but Dubois County students have been in class for only one or two days since the new year began. A bitter cold front swept through the state, leaving temperatures and roads unsafe for travel.

Luckily for local school corporations — some of which have nearly depleted their supplies of makeup days after a series of cancellations in December — the Indiana Department of Education has decided schools that called off classes because of inclement weather today and Monday may be forgiven.

By submitting an application for a waiver, schools will likely be allowed to forget these two snow days instead of making them up later in the year to meet the department’s 180-day requirement. Waivers are always available to Indiana school districts, though Southeast Dubois Superintendent Rick Allen says they have been historically hard to come by. Now, because the department has determined the weather to be an emergency situation, a waiver will be easier to secure.

Allen said his district will definitely be applying for the waiver. Southeast Dubois Schools have seven built-in snow days this year, but like all other county schools, they used up three in December.

Southwest Dubois Superintendent Mike Eineman said Monday that he had not yet reviewed the state’s offer, but it would be beneficial for the corporation to apply since each of its three makeup days will be used to cover snow days taken in December.

“This would enable our seniors to graduate on time and not have to come back the next week to make up any work,” Eineman said. “Of course we would like to get the required days in for the year, but this does give us an option since our graduation is early.”

Southridge High School’s commencement is set for May 16.

For Greater Jasper and Northeast Dubois schools, keeping students in class for a full 180 days is a priority before either superintendent considers applying for the two waivers. Jasper began the school year with five possible makeup days but added a sixth one Jan. 2 after a snowy December threatened to extend the schoolyear.

“GJCS will strive to provide the full 180 days of instruction to students. We will be making up (Monday) on March 21,” Lorey said Monday. Since then, the corporation has added March 31 as a make up for today. Only April 21 remains as a make up option. “If we use all available makeup days, we will apply for the waiver for the absence today.”

Northeast Dubois Superintendent Bill Hochgesang agreed. His district started with six makeup days and will have one remaining without the waiver.

“The professional thing to do is make our days up we have built into our calendar before applying for the waiver,” he said.

Hochgesang added that the opportunity for forgiveness of the cancellation does relieve some pressure on administrators.

“We applied for a waiver a few years ago when we exceeded the make up days in our calendar,” he said. “We are thankful for this opportunity because there is so much time left in this winter season.”

Lorey said she is hopeful that students can return to class Wednesday, as temperatures are forecast to climb into the 30s. She said road conditions were a factor in cancellations this week, but it was the dangerous wind chills that really kept the kids out of the classroom.

Lorey explained that subzero temperatures often prevent buses from starting, “but more importantly, kids standing at bus stops may not be properly dressed for this type of weather. Even if we had delayed (the start of school), the temperature would not have risen enough to make it safe for students to be at the bus stops and for buses to transport kids.”

Neither Lorey nor Hochgesang can remember the last time school was canceled because of temperatures.

“I don’t recall a time when school was canceled because of cold. It seems the cold and snow go together,” Hochgesang said Monday. “Today’s decision was based on both. The cold would have been enough to cancel.”

Contact Claire Moorman.

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