Snow days force schools to adjust

Keno Blair, 4, left, and his brother Reznor, 5, sled down the hill in their front yard on Jackson Street in Jasper on Friday. Today marked the first time Dubois County students arrived at school at the normal time in nearly a week. Rachel Mummey/The Herald




Herald Staff Writer

Today marked the first time Dubois County students arrived at school at the normal time in nearly a week. Snow and ice still coat some sidewalks, but local school superintendents decided that the roads were finally clear enough to load the kids on the buses again.

Though snow days might be popular with students, administrators are not as happy to cancel classes. State law requires that all schools be in session for a minimum of 180 days each school year, meaning that any time that is lost because of wintry weather must be made up later in the year, and calendar committees can budget only so many makeup days before they must extend the school year into summer vacation.

Dubois County schools have now used three snow days after sleet turned to 9 inches of snow late last week. Southeast Dubois schools have the most leeway, with seven makeup days in the budget, but Superintendent Rick Allen still remembers how quickly bad weather can change the course of a year.
“The most school we ever missed to snowy weather was 2010-11, when we missed nine days and school went into June,” he said.

Districts are hoping to avoid that unpopular situation, but for Southwest Dubois, which has now exhausted its three makeup days for this school year, doing so will mean praying for better weather in January and February. The corporation was aiming for an early graduation date of May 16, while the rest of the county would celebrate its seniors the following week. Southwest Superintendent Mike Eineman is hopeful that the schedule can remain intact.

“The way our calendar was made this year we did not have much room for snow makeup days.
Ending the year that early really puts us in a bind to get makeup days in before graduation,” Eineman said. “We can still adjust at the end of the year and extend the year. The seniors are the concern, in trying to get them completed by the May 16th date.”

All local corporations finish the first semester Dec. 20. Northeast Dubois School Superintendent Bill Hochgesang, whose district has six scheduled makeup days, said he trusts in the teachers to make up for lost time by that date.

“Our teachers are a great bunch and very flexible. I am sure they are adjusting for final exams,” he said. “We have no idea what the rest of the winter holds, but it is very rare to have this many snow days before the Christmas holiday.”

Greater Jasper schools have five scheduled makeup days, and Superintendent Tracy Lorey said she intends to speak to the school board at the monthly meeting Monday about inserting another makeup day option into the calendar. She says it is the goal not to send students to school beyond the commencement date of May 24.

“The winter season is just beginning, and with only two remaining snow days, it makes me concerned that we will not have enough built in,” Lorey said. “Obviously, when we’re not in school, we’re missing instructional time. We’re approaching the end of the semester and final exams and there’s a lot of learning going on between now and those final exams.”

Jasper Catholic schools follow the lead of the city’s public schools. Holy Family School Principal Sally Sternberg said now school may be in session on Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Jan. 20, Great Americans Day on Feb. 17 and Friday, March 21, which originally was scheduled as an extension of spring break. Jasper spring break runs through Monday, March 31, but that is designated as a makeup day as well. Sternberg said her staff already has responded to the schedule changes well.

“It gets a little bit hairy trying to get everything in, but our teachers do a wonderful job.”

North Spencer School Corp., which also has five built-in makeup days before commencement, has used only two snow days so far, as students returned to class Tuesday with only a two-hour delay.

Vincennes University Jasper Campus, meanwhile, had its first snow day in probably the last four or five years, student services Director Jessica DeLorenzo said. VUJC called off classes Friday after administrators discussed the situation with the main campus, but overall, students and professors were able to recover before finals this week.

“The good thing, if you can look at the silver lining, is we don’t have very many classes on Friday at all,” DeLorenzo said.

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