March 12, 2015
Lawrence schools have missed 31 days this year; spring break cancelled
In the wake of one of Kentucky’s worst winters in recent history the Kentucky House and Senate gave final approval to Senate Bill 119, which includes language allowing school districts to waive some of their mandatory 1,062 instructional hours this year because of snow days, if the districts cannot make up the time by June 5.
The bill goes to Beshear for his signature or veto.
SB 119 would prohibit school districts from holding class on Saturday or meeting for longer than seven hours daily.
In Lawrence County School Board Chairman Heath Preston said today that the school system is ready to take action after leading the state in missed days for bad weather two years in a row. Lawrence County, the state’s third largest in area has miles and miles of rural roads that are impassable for school busses in inclement weather and are prone to flooding as well, Preston said.
“I have spoken with state representative Jill York, state senator Ray Jones as well as a member of U.S. Rep. Hal Rogers’ office this week and we have a meeting set up for next week to consider what can be done to fix these roads so they are passable in bad weather,” Preston said. “The county just doesn’t have the funding to fix the roads we are speaking of so I want to look at it from the perspective of education, our kids cannot get a proper education as long as we miss this many days.”
But Preston said the problem is not just snow and flooding.
“We have a terrible truancy problem with attendance percentages usually in the low 90’s, Preston said. Floyd County, which has a lot more students and is also a large county in area, is running at 95% so why can’t we do that well?
“We have come up with a new policy we are calling ‘Targeting Truancy’ that we hope will help with that problem,” Preston said.
Many people do not realize that the school system loses money each day a student misses. For example if we raised taxes 4% next year it would bring in around $134,000 but if we just raised the attendance rate one percent, it would mean over $100,000 without raising taxes,” Preston explained.
He said the school system is looking at having to cut an estimated $500,000 from its already lean budget next year.
“We have to get these students in school, not only for the financial reasons but for each kid’s sake, they are missing their education and it has been proven that there is a direct correlation between attendance and performance on testing,” Preston added.
Some districts lost close to 30 days this school year because of harsh winter weather. Places like Perry County have responded by canceling their spring break and changing their last day of school from late April to early June. Preston said there will be no spring break in Lawrence county this year. “We said last year if we had to miss 20 days or more there would be no spring break,” Preston said.
House Education Chairman Derrick Graham, D-Frankfort, said people in the cities of Central Kentucky might not realize how difficult it is for school buses to travel “in the hollows of Eastern Kentucky and in those areas where the roads can be overwhelmed with flooding.”
Several Republican lawmakers opposed the waiver, saying the legislature has grown accustomed to passing “snow day bills” that deprive children of much-needed classroom time.
“We can’t keep giving these days away every single year,” said Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger. “If we’re going to demand that our kids go to school and that every high school diploma is the same everywhere, then we need to make sure they go to school for a full term everywhere.”
A KPA co-op story was used to go with this article