Schools juggle schedules, cancel holidays to make up for days lost to snow, cold
BY KAREN CAFFARINI Post-Tribune correspondent February 21, 2014 4:00PM
The heavy snows that have hit Northwest Indiana this winter did more than clog roads; they complicated schedules at area schools. | Post-Tribune Fil Photo
Updated: February 22, 2014 2:03AM
Thousands of Northwest Indiana children found themselves in their classrooms on Feb. 14, instead of having the day off as scheduled.
And that was just one of several steps school districts are taking to make up for the time lost due to this year’s brutal winter.
Some schools are using the days already marked on their calendars as makeup days, some are extending the school year and others are doing away with any early dismissals to meet the state’s minimum requirement of 180 instructional days per academic year.
Some, like Gary and Merrillville schools, hadn’t made a decision as of press time. However, none of the many Northwest Indiana districts contacted are taking advantage of two possibilities offered by state schools Superintendent Glenda Ritz: scheduling longer-than-normal school days or having online instruction on Saturdays.
Ritz had told The Indianapolis Star a district could add an additional hour to six school days to make up for one lost day. She also said schools with the proper technology could provide weekend instruction over the Internet.
It’s not that the school administrators don’t like the two options; they said it was too late to implement them this year.
“We talked about all the options, including virtual makeup days,” said Lynne Haberlin, director of innovations and learning for Tri-Creek School School Corp. in Lowell.
“They were very intriguing but would have taken staff development to do. It’s intriguing, but not for this year. Besides, we already had snow days built into the calendar.”
The district lost six days of school so far, two of which received waivers. Makeup days were added to the end of the school calendar, meaning that, barring any other cancellations, the last day of school will be June 4 instead of May 29, Haberlin said.
Michael Berta, superintendent of Valparaiso Community Schools, said the Presidents Day weekend was supposed to be a four-day weekend for students and staff, but it was decided to use Friday, Feb. 14, a designated winter holiday, as one makeup day. Kids still had President’s Day off on Monday.
The district’s other three makeup days — April 18, May 16 and June 5 — were already scheduled, he said.
On Thursday night, the Valparaiso Community Schools Board voted to designate two Saturdays — April 5 and April 12 — as makeup days.
On Berta’s recommendation, the board chose not to add another hour to school days for a week to make up the lost time.
The school City of Hobart had four snow/cold days. One was made up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day; one on Feb. 14; one on Monday, Feb. 17; and the last will be made up on Monday, April 21, the day after Easter.
The school year is still scheduled to end on time, June 4, said Sarah Ramos, who works in the district’s administration office.
Duneland School Corp. also used last Friday and Monday to make up two of its five lost days, with a third makeup day scheduled for April 25. The schools received a waiver for two of the lost days.
Lake Central School Corp. decided to add its four lost days to the end of its school year, ending May 30 instead of May 23.
The school City of Hammond made up one day last Friday, but hadn’t yet disclosed what it will do to make up its other lost days.
Public schools aren’t the only ones who need to abide by the 180-day minimum requirement. So do charter and parochial schools.
Barbara O’Block, superintendent for Catholic Schools of Gary, which covers Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties, said she applied for waivers for two days lost; after that it is up to each school to decide how it would meet the minimum requirement.
She said not all schools were closed the same number of days. Decisions to close often mirror those of nearby public schools, however, as Catholic schools may depend on their transportation services.
Most schools had snow days figured into their calendars, Block said.
At Charter School of the Dunes in Gary, it was decided to add two days at the end of the school year and eliminate early dismissals on Wednesdays for the rest of the year, ending school at 3:30 p.m. instead of 1:45 p.m.
“This more than makes up for the time lost,” administrator Christine Pepa said.
She said if the school should need to call more snow days it will look at other options, such as the virtual school suggested by Ritz or Saturday classes.
Correspondent James D. Wolf Jr. contributed to this report.