Schools offset wild winter 15 minutes a day

Photos by Rachel Mummey/The Herald
David Turnham Educational Center third-grader Bryan Vellejo, left, received help from teacher Kate Kress during the final minutes of the school day Tuesday in Dale. After rugged winter weather hit local schools with several missed days, North Spencer schools opted to add 15 minutes to the end of each day through the end of this month.

Herald Staff Writer

CHRISNEY — The bell signaling the end of the school day rang through the halls of Chrisney Elementary School on Tuesday, but no excited kids burst from their classrooms.

By now the students at Chrisney have gotten used to staying patiently in their seats after their normal 3:08 p.m. CDT dismissal has passed. Since April 1, they have been grabbing their books and boarding their buses at 3:23 p.m., a full 15 minutes later, and they will continue to do so for the remainder of the month. The additional quarter hour every day will add up to a full school day’s worth of instruction time, giving North Spencer it’s final makeup day after a harsh winter.

With five built-in snow makeup days and two free days from an Indiana Department of Education waiver, North Spencer had one snow day left unaccounted for. Rather than returning to school after the scheduled final day Friday May 23, after graduation May 24 and after the extended Memorial Day weekend, the corporation school board voted in March to make up for lost time in a creative new way. Chrisney Elementary Principal Julie Kemp said she remembers many years when the corporation went traditional and tacked days on to the end of the school year after snowy winters, but this is the first time this new strategy has been tested.

David Turnham Educational Center fourth-grader Jenny Block, second from right, worked on math problems with teaching assistant Pam Greene, right, and classmate Briana Ibarra on Tuesday in Dale.

For sixth-graders Maddy Detzer and Ashlee Rice, the extra time is almost unnoticeable. The two girls were outside at 3 p.m., enjoying the nice spring weather and spraying water onto a bunch of colorful flowers the school plans to sell or plant around the grounds.

“I really enjoy giving back to the school,” Maddy said.

The sixth-grade students take shifts each day, with some of them receiving a little extra instruction time at the end of the day and the others going throughout the school and working on service projects like the flowers Maddy and Ashlee tended. In the library, Jayden Reyes and Chloe Gideon helped librarian Becky Gasaway organize her domain. Kaylene Rumley and Zach Kemp beautified the backyard of the school where their class is planting a community vegetable garden.

Kaylene said she was annoyed when she first heard she would have a lengthier school day throughout April, but she found it isn’t so bad.

“I like it,” she said. “I don’t really pay attention to the extra 15.”

As part of a robotics team that competed Saturday, Kaylene and Zach appreciated the additional time to work on their robot. In fact, their project was so much fun, it made the time whiz by.

“When robotics was going on, it was just like the regular 30 minutes (of robotics practice),” he said.

Kemp said she knows she and her teachers will even miss the 15 minutes when everything goes back to normal in May. In the classrooms, teachers have more availability to work with students one-on-one, which is especially helpful as Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress online exams are set to begin next week.

David Turnham Educational Center third-grader Vanessa Yanez read near the end of the day Tuesday at the Dale school.

First-grade teacher Heather Sisley extended her science lesson Tuesday. During the final 15 minutes of the day, her students spent time completing math problems on computers. Sisley has taught at the school for 17 years and said this strategy of dealing with snow days is preferable to adding days after Memorial Day.

“When you take that three-day break and you try to come back for just a day or two, it’s really hard. There are students who have vacations scheduled and are leaving and are missing out on that instruction time,” she explained. “So this works much better as far as getting the whole class and keeping them more focused.”

Those providing transportation have not been negatively affected either.

“It doesn’t bother me. I don’t think it bothers the kids, either,” bus driver Delores Roush said as she waited for her route to start. She simply begins her routine 15 minutes later each afternoon.

Kemp said the 15 minutes are also tacked on to band and choir classes on Wednesdays, bumping them up from a mere 30-minute period to 45 minutes. Fun Fitness Fridays, part of the school’s Welborn Baptist Foundation health grant, have also been lengthened so students and teachers can participate longer in activities including volleyball, soccer, jump rope and capture the flag.

The story is the same at the other schools. Lincoln Trail Elementary School Principal Ben Lawalin said the extra time has been a blessing.

David Turnham Educational Center first-grader Ireland Mick, right, helped classmate Gunnar Schaefer with school work Tuesday at the school in Dale.

“Our teachers have already gotten used to having the extra time for enrichment and remediation. At North Spencer, it is definitely more desirable than coming back to school after Memorial Day,” he said. “If we had done that, we would have been forced to change plans for high school graduation. That being said, hopefully we will not have such a harsh winter in the future.”

Greater Jasper and Southeast Dubois schools will not have to use additional time to make up for snow days. Northeast Dubois students will attend school Friday, May 23, though they had been scheduled to end the year the day before. Southwest Dubois graduation is set for May 16, but all students except seniors will continue with classes until Thursday, May 22. To make up some of their time, seniors attended school to clean Saturday, April 5 and will also attend this Saturday for a “reality store” experience to learn about personal finance.

“The kids did well. We got a lot of cleaning done and a lot of different things around the school that helped out our maintenance and our teachers,” Southridge High School Principal Kelly Murphy said of the first Saturday school.

Southridge seniors still have to return to class Monday and Tuesday after graduation. The plan is for seniors to follow their regular schedule on those final two days.

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