Local schools may have to go to class into June

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

PARAGOULD/JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Officials with several school districts in northeast Arkansas said another major snow event isn't what education needs. According to state law, school districts are required to hold 178 days with six hour instructional periods each year. When snow falls and closes school, districts have to find ways to compensate. Most of the time, teachers said, missed days are added at the end of the semester.

"The most concerning aspect of it would be that we have testing that we do a lot predominantly in April. We'll start a little bit in March but with end of course literacy, second week of March for our juniors and then we hit it hard with new course geometry and new course algebra with benchmark exams and then our SAT exams that we give to grades 2, 3, and 9," said Amy Lucius, Assistant Superintendent at Greene County Tech.

Lucius said a school districts faculty and school board determine when missed days will be added, but Saturdays are most likely out of the question.

"About 6 or 7 years ago, we tried making up some snow days on Saturday. It was not very popular. It was very difficult for our parents. A lot of our children have activities and some of our faculty and staff," said Lucius. "It's not popular to take in spring break because we have lots of our parents that have vacations scheduled, we have activities. I know our band is going to Washington DC. We have a baseball team that's going to be traveling to South Carolina. Our softball team will be traveling."

Greene County Tech missed three days last week due to snow and ice and was out again Monday. According to weather forecasts, the district could very well miss Tuesday. As of Monday, the school's last day would be June 4th.

"We're in a hilly area in Greene County. We run 44 bus routes every day, student safety is our number one concern," said Lucius. "Right now technically we're just making up one day on June the 4th, but looking at the weather models and listening to the wonderful forecasters that we have in our area that have been very beneficial to help us in planning, it's not looking very good as far as just making up that first week in June."

Lucius said students have a difficult time focusing on school work as the semester progresses.

"At first students love to be out for the snow but what we're hearing now is that students are ready to go back to school because they don't want to give up their summer," said Lucius. "When springs hits and in the summertime they have other activities that they would like to engage in and you have lots of community activities with Little League baseball and you have lots of camps."

"It proves very difficult when you have speakers planned for our teachers and then you try to run your summer school to catch our students up on credits," said Lucius.

Dr. Aaron Hosman at Paragould High School told Region 8 News Monday June 2nd would be the last day of class. Paragould missed two days last week and again Monday.

Under state law, school districts build in five days that don't have to be made up.

"The calendar is now part of personnel policy, and so it also is a decision that has to be made by your faculty and staff," said Wilbanks. "We try to always avoid spring break because we understand people have already made plans and they need to be able to move forward with that plan."

The Jonesboro School District has missed a total of five days, including Monday and is expected to miss Tuesday depending on the weather. The school was originally going to be dismissed May 25th.

"This is kind of a unique year because we customarily don't miss this number of days," said Wilbanks. "Most often we add it to the end of the year, but we don't often miss this number of days so I don't know how that'll change the thinking."

"We need the instructional time prior to spring testing, not after testing, but sometimes Mother Nature doesn't cooperate and we don't get those days at that time," said Wilbanks. "When the spring weather begins to arrive in Arkansas, it's very difficult for students to take the school day as seriously as they do earlier in the year."

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