School districts ponder how to make up for snow days

It’s been an unusual year, districts say

By Kailey Fisicaro, The Bulletin, @kaileyfisicaro

In the wake of another snow day on Wednesday, Central Oregon school districts are looking at whether they’ll need to make up time that students have lost in school.

Bend-La Pine, Crook County, Jefferson County, Redmond and Sisters school districts have all declared at least a couple of snow days already this school year. Most canceled school around the storm in mid-December when all of Central Oregon was blanketed, and parts of Bend received up to 17 inches of snow.

It used to be that school districts were allowed to count some snow days for “instructional time” — the number of hours children must be in school. But following a rule change in 2014, school districts are expected to follow standards set by the State Board of Education, starting this school year.

School districts now can’t count any inclement weather days toward students’ time in the classroom.

Bend-La Pine has so far called three snow days in the 2016-17 school year: Dec. 14, Dec. 15 and Jan. 4.

“This is an unusual year for us,” Julianne Repman, Bend-La Pine Schools communications director said Wednesday.

Last school year the district declared only one snow day, on Dec. 17, 2015, she said.

So far, the school district isn’t expecting it will have to make up for students’ hours lost in the classroom due to snow days. Bend-La Pine scheduled above the minimum amount of instructional hours required by the state so that it’s still in good shape.

But Crook County School District will likely have to plan some makeup hours, according to Stacy Smith, the district’s curriculum director.

On Wednesday, Smith was looking into how the district could make up for instructional hours lost to its three snow days. The Crook County school board also plans to discuss it at its meeting on Jan. 9, he said.

“Obviously snow days are a wild card,” Smith said. “We try to have some wiggle room in our daily schedules.”

It’s likely the district is out of “wiggle room” at the high school level, Smith said, where more instructional hours are required. The state requires K-8 students to have 900 hours, ninth- through 11th-graders to have 990 hours and 12th-graders to have 966 hours.

It could be that another school day is tacked on to the end of the year, or that a holiday students would otherwise have off is skipped so students are in the classroom. The holiday route would take coordinating with the teachers union, Smith said. The school district has used holidays that way before, he said.

Other school districts, including Redmond, Jefferson County, Sisters and Culver, didn’t return requests for comment on Wednesday.

Whether districts have to make up instructional time could still be determined by how much more inclement weather Central Oregon sees this school year.

In his 21 years with Crook County School District, Smith can’t remember a time when there were three snow days in one school year.

“Rarely do we have more than one,” he said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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