Schools grow weary of snow business
To the chagrin of many parents, above-average snowfall this winter has forced a greater number of school cancellations.
According to the National Weather Service office in Louisville, the Harrison and Crawford County areas have received between 16 and 20 inches of snowfall, which is about nine inches above normal.
At press time, South Harrison Community School Corp. and North Harrison Community School Corp. have both missed eight days, with three two-hour delays, and the Lanesville Community School Corp. has missed six days, had four two-hour delays and one day that students were sent home early.
According to a memorandum sent last year from Dr. Tony Bennett, Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, and the Indiana Department of Education to school corporations, before 1987, Indiana schools were not required to reschedule canceled instructional days. In 1987, the Indiana General Assembly passed a law extending the school year to 180 days. Indiana law now provides that each school corporation shall provide at least 180 student instructional days. If a school corporation does not conduct at least 180 student instructional days, the DOE must impose a financial penalty against the corporation. The penalty amounts to the proportion of tuition support the corporation would have received had students been in school for those days.
‘The Department does have the authority to grant a waiver of the financial penalty for a particular number of canceled instructional days only if each day was canceled due to extraordinary circumstances,’ Bennett wrote. ‘But beginning in the fall of 2009, the Department has consistently granted waivers only in extraordinary circumstances. Winter weather is not extraordinary. As such, the Department will not grant a waiver of the financial penalty where a corporation chooses to provide fewer than 180 days of instructional time.’
For both accreditation and financial penalty purposes, the department’s automatic waiver policy only allows for a waiver if school starts no more than two hours after the regular start of the school day or is dismissed no more than two hours before the regular end of the school day. Both dismissals must be due to weather-related or loss of utility service.
Lanesville has two snow days (April 22 and May 6) built into its balanced calendar, so intercession dates March 14 through 17 will be snow make-up days. If another snow day is needed, March 18 will be available.
‘For us, the weather has impacted the third intercession this year, which is a key component of our balanced calendar,’ Lanesville Junior-Senior High School Principal and Superintendent Steve Morris said. ‘When we publish our school calendar each year, we note that ‘potentially, the March intercession could be used in case of inclement weather’.’
South Harrison’s make-up dates are Feb. 21, March 18, April 2, May 6, 27 and 31 and June 1 and 2. With the changes, the graduation date for Corydon Central and South Central high schools now is June 5, but that could change if additional make-up dates are needed.
North Harrison used one make-up day on Jan. 17 and will use Feb. 21, April 22, May 6, 26, 27 and 31 and June 1.
The decision to close school isn’t based solely on the main county roads, which are usually cleared first along with state roads and the interstate.
‘Closing school, calling a two-hour delay or an early release is a very difficult decision for a superintendent to make,’ North Harrison Superintendent John Roeder said. ‘Even though school-closure decisions can be disruptive to a family schedule, the safety of our students and staff must be our top priority.
‘At North Harrison, the transportation director and superintendent are out early checking the condition of as many roads and hills as possible before making a school closure or delay decision,’ Roeder said.
Similar precautions are taken by Lanesville administrators.
‘Normally, my bus driver and assistant principal drive the roads to check the conditions, and our bus drivers are very good at taking extra time and using caution when we have a late-start or early dismissal,’ Morris said. ‘I would say the decision to open, delay or close is one of the toughest a superintendent has to make. Safety of our parents, students, teachers and drivers will always be the first priority.’
South Harrison Superintendent Dr. Neyland Clark said drivers log 70 to 100 miles per morning or evening while checking roads. Selected contracted bus drivers also check roads, and the corporation continuously monitors weather advisories and weather patterns.
‘We also have periodic discussions with Glen Bube of the county highway department, which, by the way, they have been remarkable considering the resources they have,’ Clark said. ‘I consult with superintendents from North Harrison and Lanesville, (transportation director) Melissa Deaton talks with other area student transportation directors and then I ultimately make the decision.’