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Last updated: Tue. Feb. 25, 2014 - 01:50 pm EDT

FWCS adds hour to make up for snow days

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After missing a dozen days of school because of inclement weather, Fort Wayne Community Schools students will soon begin making up for lost time by adding an hour to each school day for five weeks.

School board members voted 5-1 Monday to add one hour of instructional time to the end of each school day from March 3 to April 11.

The new schedule will exclude March 28 – the Friday before the district’s spring break vacation – because many families have already made travel plans based on a regular dismissal time, officials said.

The remainder of missed time will be made up on scheduled make-up days May 9 and May 23 and at the end of the year. The last day for students is scheduled for June 6, barring additional closures.

Board member Lisa Olinger voted against the plan to extend school days, citing concerns for employees who work second jobs or have other obligations. Board secretary Steve Corona was absent Monday.

State law requires public schools provide 180 days of instruction each year.

A full instructional day for elementary students is five hours, and secondary students must attend six hours, according to state law.

The adjusted schedule means most FWCS elementary students will dismiss at 4:30 p.m., middle schools at 3:25 p.m. and high schools at 3:35 p.m. for the five weeks.

A complete list of schools with start and ending times is available on the district’s website, www.fwcs.k12.in.us, officials said.

As a result of the changes, after-school activities at elementary schools will be canceled during the five weeks of extended days. Middle and high school extracurricular activities will continue after school, officials said.

Middle school will only offer activities, including practices, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

Once the five weeks has been completed, the district will have made up four days, officials said.

Although there were multiple options available, district leaders selected what they believe is the most consistent for parents, students and the community, Superintendent Wendy Robinson said.

“Once you change a schedule for a district as large as we are, if it’s not consistent enough for parents to remember what they’re supposed to be doing, we end up missing students and missing adults in this whole process,” Robinson said.

The state Department of Education announced options earlier this month that allows school districts to reschedule holidays, hold classes on Saturdays, offer online learning courses or extend the school year without seeking a state waiver.

FWCS officials said they decided against having students attend Saturday school, Good Friday or Memorial Day because more students and staff were likely to be absent during those days.

“I don’t think there’s a plan that will fit everybody’s needs. We’re just trying to think of everything, trying to be as flexible as we can,” Robinson said. “But the other part is with 30,000 students, you can’t make a lot of exceptions or you can’t carry on school.”

Making up time

Other local districts are using different methods to make up for missed time.

Southwest Allen County Schools will use eLearning courses – online lessons to be completed at home after school or on the weekends – to make up for five of the missed days, allowing the district to dismiss students for the summer on June 4, said Associate Superintendent Phil Downs.

Beginning March 3, students in middle and high school will follow a schedule to complete 30 hours of online instructional time and elementary students will complete 25 hours, Downs said.

A letter outlining plans for individual grade levels will be shared with parents today. The make-up hours should be completed by mid-April, officials said.

SACS teachers will be available to help students by email, phone and online discussions as well as virtual office hours.

A survey conducted by the district said more than 90 percent of the student body has Internet access outside of school.

The district plans to work with the remaining 10 percent of families to help find ways for their students to access online assignments, Downs said.

East Allen County Schools will add 30 minutes to the end of the school day during the month of March.

By adding a half-hour to the end of each school day and forgoing the 30 minutes of teacher collaboration time Wednesdays, the district will make up for two additional missed days. In doing so, the school year will end on June 6 – the same day students graduate.

Superintendent Ken Folks said if all goes well with the extra hours in March, the district will consider adding additional time to the end of school days in April and May.

Northwest Allen County Schools will add one hour to the school day for middle and high school students and 50 minutes a day for elementary students for 24 days.

The days with extended hours are Feb. 25 to 27; March 3 to 6, 10 to 13, 17 to 20 and 24 to 25; and April 15 to 17 and 22 to 24.

Graduation, scheduled for June 8, will not be affected by the schedule change, Superintendent Chris Himsel said.

Barring additional inclement weather, the NACS school year will end June 4.

jcrothers@jg.net


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