News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

February 25, 2014

School makeup plans differ across Valley

Vigo County hopes to announce lost days makeup plans soon — perhaps today

TERRE HAUTE — Wabash Valley school officials are eyeing this weekend’s weather forecast closely and are worried by what they see.

The forecast – as of late Tuesday – is calling for snow or a wintery mix Sunday evening into Monday, meaning it’s possible yet more classroom time could be lost to winter weather.

So far, area students have missed between eight (Vigo County) and 12 (Clay County) full school days. Other area school corporations, including Vermillion, Parke and Sullivan counties, have missed from nine to 11 days.

This has required officials to find creative ways to make up for lost time. Some corporations, such as Vigo, Clay and Northeast Sullivan schools, haven’t yet officially selected their plans. Others have plans in place and are hoping against hope that Old Man Winter doesn’t force more changes.

“It’s been a mess,” said Dave Chapman, superintendent of the South Vermillion Community School Corp., which is adding one hour to each school day for the next several weeks to make up for lost time. To help them get through the long day, elementary students are receiving a late-afternoon snack while middle and high school students are enjoying a slightly longer passing period near the end of the day, he said.

A longer school day has proven to be a popular solution in the area. North Vermillion schools are adding 45 minutes a day from March 3 to May 6, and both Parke County school districts are also extending their school days (by 40 minutes in North Central Parke and one extra hour in Southwest Parke).

Sullivan County’s Southwest School Corp. has opted against extending the school day. That’s because many teachers and bus drivers report to second jobs in the afternoons and many students have after-school jobs, said Jon Stuckey, assistant superintendent. Southwest Sullivan students will be going three extra days at the end of the year, he said.

Some makeup plans are still pending. Tonight in Hymera, the Northeast Sullivan School Corp. board will learn the results of a wide-ranging survey of parents and school staff, said Mark Baker, superintendent. They were given several choices, including extending the school year to June 2, lengthening the school day or going to school on three Saturdays, he said.

Parental surveys have also proven popular as officials decide what to do. A survey of folks in the Southwest Parke school district found 88 percent of respondents voting for extending the school day by one hour, according to a school official. And South Vermillion’s plan also emerged from a website survey of parents and talks with the teachers association, Chapman said.

Danny Tanoos, superintendent of Vigo County schools, said the Vigo plan, which he hopes to announce today, emerged from talks with student leaders, the Vigo County Teachers Association and the public through social media.

Those who have seen Vigo’s plan believe “it’s probably one of the better ones in the state,” Tanoos said. “It takes into consideration the needs of working students.”

In Clay County, the school board is set to meet next month and could then officially choose how to make up the lost days, a school official said Tuesday.

Area schools were prepared to lose a few days to snow. Most districts had some built-in snows days in late May they now plan to use. And all districts are taking advantage of two “waiver” days granted from the state – days they are not required to be made up.

But this winter has pushed things well beyond the norm.

“This has been a tough winter,” said Michael Turner, superintendent of North Vermillion Community schools. In addition to 11 lost instructional days, his district’s students have experienced 16 two-hour delays or early dismissals, he noted.

Tom Rohr, superintendent of North Central Parke schools, agrees this winter has been a trial. Echoing the feelings of his Wabash Valley colleagues: “It’s one I’d just as soon not repeat,” he said.

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