Thursday, September 24, 2020

Closings disrupt area schools’ schedules

Most kids love the words, “school is cancelled.” However, Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction requires that all districts schedule and hold at least 437 hours of instruction in kindergarten, 1,050 hours in grades 1 through 6 and 1,137 hours in grades 7 through 12 annually.

This means that if those hours are lost during the scheduled school year, the time needs to be made up somehow.

There are a lot of factors that go into making the decision of calling off school and the powers that be do not take the job lightly. Superintendents and district administrators of neighboring school districts oftentimes will look to each other for advice on whether or not it is safe for students and staff to attend classes during bouts of bad weather.    

Bangor Superintendent David Laehn calls the district townships to talk with people working on the roads to get a synopsis of the road conditions and timeline of when the roads may or may not be clear for buses.

Laehn has had to cancel six and a half days of classes so far this school year. At the start of the school year, Bangor School District had an additional four days built into the regular school calendar in anticipation of any cancellations.

At the start of the school year, its last day of school was scheduled for June 5. As of right now, the last day of school has been rescheduled for June 7.

“Winter is not over yet and if we have to we may look at eliminating a few early releases or teacher work days,” Laehn said, adding the district may also look into adding minutes to instructional time if need be.

The Sparta Area School District was able to compensate for the non-school days on Sept. 6 and 7 due to busing issues, with minutes that were already built into the district calendar.  

The Sparta district is hoping to avoid extending the school year past the current June 7 end date by approaching its make up time using a few different strategies.

So far this school year, Sparta has seven days of missed instructional time from Sept. 5 due to flooding and Jan. 22, 28 through 31 and Feb. 7 for winter weather days.

The first two weather days were built into the district calendar, meaning they do not need to be made up.  The district will now be holding school on March 15 and April 18 and 23 to make up for additional lost instructional time.

Maplewood Elementary and Lakeview Montessori both have a six-hour deficit due to having a lunch/recess period that is 5 minutes longer than the rest of the elementary schools.  Adjusting the lunch/recess period from 35 minutes to 30 minutes for the rest of the school year will address this deficit. All of the other schools are currently in compliance with DPI.

Although Sparta currently meets the DPI minutes of instruction requirement, it does not have any extra time available.  In order to ensure that there are enough minutes for any additional late starts or snow days, the school day will be extended by five minutes at the beginning of the day at Sparta High School, High Point Charter School, Maplewood Elementary, Lakeview Montessori, Southside Elementary, Cataract Elementary and Lawrence-Lawson Elementary, which will last through the end of the school year. 

The bussing schedule however will not change.  This extension will enable the Sparta district to take up to three additional two-hour late starts or one additional snow day.

Cashton School District also built in additional time to the school schedule. 

“As of right now, we are above the scheduled minimum set by DPI,” District Administrator Ryan Alderson said.

Cashton has missed seven days of school. The first day of school was missed due to flooding and the other six days were missed due to winter weather. 

The Cashton School Board can decide to add more days to the schedule to make up the lost time but as of right now, board members have given Alderson no indication they would intend to do so.

“If this winter wonderland continues we three cards to play. We could reclaim a vacation day, add more days or add to instructional time,” he explained. “Just like everyone else, we are ready for spring that’s for sure. But we have had no reported injuries or damage and our students, staff and buses are safe, just the way we want them”

Cashton’s last day of school is currently scheduled for May 30.

Tomah Area School District has also had several cancelled days and late starts throughout the school year.  According to Superintendent Cindy Zaharte, while school administrators were developing the school calendar they set aside April 22 as a makeup day.

“We don’t have a set plan in place yet. We are looking at what else we can do with the calendar. I’m going to be getting feedback from teaching staff as well as some of our supervisors asking them if we add some minutes to the day how that would complicate things,” Zaharte said, adding she is hoping to have a plan together by the school board meeting on Feb. 18.

“I believe it will be a combination of finding some days during the school year maybe cancelling a collaboration or training day and have students come for classes, maybe adding some minutes, that type of thing,” she explained.

Currently, Tomah’s last day of school is scheduled for June 6.

Like so many other local school districts, the Norwalk-Ontario-Wilton School District is no exception having missed several days of classes this school year due to flooding, snow and extreme cold.

District Administrator Dr. Kelly Burhop rescheduled classes on Friday to makeup for the missed time. 

“The make-up day is necessary to stay in line with required instructional hours offered by public schools as mandated by the state legislature,” Burhop wrote in press release.

The district’s last day of school is currently scheduled for June 6.

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