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Snow days piling up for many Kentucky school districts

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The mere whiff of a snowflake can shut
down one school system while several inches of snow won't cancel
school in other parts of Kentucky - making the term "snow day"
relative.
Winter weather has closed the urban Louisville school system for
just six days so far this academic year. But some Kentucky public
schools in rural areas with narrow, windy roads have already been
shuttered for 20 days or more, school officials said.
In a rural county just north of Louisville, eight snow days in a
month have taken a toll on students, parents and teachers alike.
"A couple of snow days in the winter are fun," said Bobbie
Stoess, a first-grade teacher at Crestwood Elementary School in
Crestwood. "Eight in a month is way too many. ... We have the same
amount of curriculum to cover."
Mandatory state tests, crucial to federal funding, are scheduled
for the last two weeks of April.
The mounting number of school closures put school boards in a
tight spot, said Brad Hughes, spokesman for the Kentucky School
Boards Association, a nonprofit advocacy group based in Frankfort
that represents all public school districts in the state.
"Every time a school board has to change its calendar, somebody
gets mad," Hughes said earlier this week.
Adding missed days at the end of the school year can delay
family vacations and interrupt teachers' summer education plans, he
said.
And it is only January. Winter storms could return anytime over
the next two months, and flu outbreaks and ubiquitous spring floods
could also be a problem.
State law requires Kentucky's public schools to provide at least
the equivalent of 177 six-hour days or 1,062 instructional hours,
said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.
Some options being considered are canceling teacher in-service
days and having the kids attend school instead, holding Saturday
classes, adding hours to the school day and asking state lawmakers
to grant a waiver from some makeup days.
"That's one of those things that is really a double-edged sword
issue, if you will," Hughes said about possible legislation
seeking waivers. "Folks that have gone even on tough days are not
so sympathetic for the folks that have closed a lot of days."
Officials in the 4,500-student Knox County school system in the
mountains of eastern Kentucky have already had 20 snow days this
school year, and they now have a plan to limit snow days in the
future, said system spokesman Frank Shelton.
Called "Plan B," the school system will alter the bus routes
on days when most of the county roads are driveable and only a few
might be impassable. That way, the schools can remain open and
fewer than 100 students would be impacted, he said.
"Sometimes, it's just a few roads that may be covered with
trees or on the north side (of the mountain) where the sun does not
hit and melt snow as fast," Shelton said.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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