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February 7, 2014

Ritz mulls makeup day options

INDIANAPOLIS — State education officials are considering whether to allow Indiana school districts to make up some of this winter’s numerous snow days by scheduling longer school days or having online instruction on a Saturday.

State schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz said she will soon outline options for districts that in many cases have canceled more than a week of school because of heavy snow and extreme cold.

A district could add an additional hour to six school days to make up for one lost day or schools with the proper technology could provide weekend instruction over the Internet to obtain a waiver from the state’s requirement of 180 school days, Ritz told The Indianapolis Star.

“It would be what I call a conditional waiver,” Ritz said. “You apply for the waiver and you say: ‘We want to waive these number of days and this is how we will make up the time.”’

Ritz spoke after the State Board of Education agreed on Thursday to extend the time period for next month’s ISTEP standardized testing. The board extended the applied skills portion of the exam from March 3 until March 21. That testing had been scheduled for March 3 through March 12.

Many educators had expressed concerns about having enough time to prepare students for the exams, which are administered annually to third- through eighth-graders and cover English, math, science and social studies.

Ritz said school districts have asked for the flexibility to increase classroom time without adding full days to the school calendar in preparation for the ISTEP tests.

“We think it is an option that locals have not had before,” she said. “We are excited about that.”

Jeff Butts, superintendent of Wayne Township schools in suburban Indianapolis, said he has yet to schedule two makeup days and has faced the possibility of having to hold classes after the high school graduation date, on Saturdays or during spring break.

Having a longer schools day could mean overtime pay for some employees and a possible disruption of after-school activities, but that would be less trouble than the other makeup possibilities, Butts said.

“We think it is great to have different options for the communities to work through and decide,” he said. “When you are talking about what is best for the instruction of our students and in preparation for ISTEP — I think it is absolutely phenomenal.”

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