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Last updated: Sat. Jan. 11, 2014 - 07:15 am EDT

Area schools cope with missed days

SACS lengthens year; others mix methods

Schedule changes

What to expect for each district if waivers from the state Department of Education are approved:

FWCS – Students will now attend classes on May 9 and May 23; last day of school is June 3, as scheduled

EACS – Students will now attend classes on Feb. 11 and Feb. 17; last day of school is May 27, as scheduled

NACS – Students will now attend classes on Feb. 24, March 14 and April 18; last day of school is May 30, as scheduled

SACS – Students will now attend classes on Jan. 20, Feb. 17, May 30 and June 2; last day of school was May 29 but is now June 2

With this week’s weather in the past and fingers crossed for a full week of classes next week, local school districts are hoping missed days won’t cut into their summers or show up on state tests.

Fort Wayne Community Schools, Northwest Allen County Schools, Southwest Allen County Schools and East Allen County Schools were closed all this week after nearly 10 inches of snow fell Sunday, followed by subzero temperatures.

As of Friday, only Southwest Allen will tack days onto the end of its school year. The three other districts plan to use a combination of snow makeup days and waivers from the state Department of Education for the missed days, so they won’t have to cut into their summers. At least for now.

SACS officials said Friday they will not apply for the waivers and will make up for the missed days using snow makeup days and by adding two days to the end of the year.

“We think it’s important that our kids are in the classrooms,” Southwest Allen Associate Superintendent Phil Downs said.

Downs said that since districts were not given a deadline for the waiver, SACS might go back and apply if more cancellations arise.

“If we accumulate so many days that it looks like we are going to go way into (the summer), we might talk about it again,” he said.

However, the make-up days won’t happen soon enough to help students on their next challenge – ISTEP+ testing scheduled to begin March 3.

“Essentially, we’ve lost four days of instruction before ISTEP and any day of lost instruction is a concern,” FWCS spokeswoman Krista Stockman said.

Stockman said concerns about the ISTEP+ test won’t override decisions the district makes during bad weather, but it’s critical to have students in class as often as possible leading up to the test.

East Allen spokeswoman Tamyra Kelly echoed Stockman’s concerns.

“We’ll keep working to prepare them for the ISTEP test, but those four days could have been great instructional time,” Kelly said.

Northwest Allen and Southwest Allen officials both said they don’t expect the missed instruction time to affect ISTEP+ test scores.

Attempts to contact state officials Friday to ask how ISTEP+ will be affected were unsuccessful.

‘Lot of winter left’

If they are granted waivers, districts won’t be responsible for making up for the lost time on Monday and Tuesday but will need to make up the remaining days.

At the beginning of the week, FWCS officials said they would not apply for the waiver, citing the importance of the 180 days of instruction.

But as the days continued to add up, district officials changed their minds.

“We’ve still got a lot of winter left, and we don’t want to get into a situation where we are extending too far into the summer,” Stockman said.

FWCS will have classes May 9 and May 23 – on what would have been days off for students – to make up for missed days.

Students were not scheduled to attend classes Friday, so that day won’t count against the missed instructional days, Stockman added.

“We do think they should be in class as many days as possible,” Stockman said. “But we’re concerned about what the rest of winter might bring.”

East Allen will also apply for the waiver and will ask students to attend class Feb. 11 and Feb. 17 to make up for the missed days, Kelly said.

Students were not scheduled to return to classes until Tuesday, so Monday’s missed day won’t need to be made up.

Northwest Allen Superintendent Chris Himsel said the district can make up the current missed days, but any future days will extend the school year into the summer.

Himsel said NACS will have classes Feb. 24, March 14 and April 18 to make up for missing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

Southwest Allen students will attend classes Jan. 20, Feb. 17, May 30 and June 2 to make up for the four missed days.

Warmer temperatures throughout the weekend should help melt snow and make it possible for students to get back to school Monday, said Nick Greenawalt, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Syracuse.

But just because it’s not coming next week doesn’t mean there won’t be more nasty weather around the corner, he added.

“At this point, the potential for heavy snow exists all the way into March,” he said. “Last year, we had two fairly large snow events that month, so that potential for snow storms continues.”

School leaders said they don’t expect any problems getting back into the routine Monday, even after three weeks without class.

“Kids will adjust back into their routines and so will teachers and so will parents,” Stockman said.

Northwest Allen’s Himsel said he doesn’t believe the extra week of winter break will hurt student learning.

“I think students will be high energy during our next day of school, which I certainly hope is Monday,” Himsel said. “However, I do not think they will be any more high energy than they would normally after winter break.”

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