FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky's harsh winter has state lawmakers scrambling to offer relief to school districts faced with making up lost instructional time that added up to weeks in some areas due to long bouts with snow and ice.
No one wants students sitting in classes during summer, but a final version to prevent that is still being worked out.
The Kentucky House weighed in on the issue Friday, passing a bill aimed at allowing districts to waive up to 10 missed instructional days this academic year. The bipartisan-backed measure calls on state Education Commissioner Terry Holliday to approve such requests from districts.
House members voted 82-8 to send the bill to the Senate, which is working on its own version.
Senate President Robert Stivers said Friday that waiving a set number of days statewide seems inappropriate.
"We're trying to figure out some way to make sure that there is an application that best suits the majority of the districts, but primarily looking at these kids getting educational time," Stivers told reporters.
The Senate version is still being crafted, but it could get a vote in the chamber next week.
Republican Sen. David Givens said that senators working on the issue along with other groups hope to have a version ready by Monday. He predicted that bill will meet the "vast majority of needs" in easing the situation.
"I want to caution everyone, though, we're not going to meet everyone's needs," Givens said.
Leaders in both chambers want to get a final bill to Gov. Steve Beshear as soon as possible to let districts adjust their schedules.
Kentucky's 173 school districts are required to provide a minimum of 170 instructional days each year. Dozens of districts have missed at least 20 days this winter. Some rural districts have missed more than 30 days.
Holliday said the snowy and icy winter has taken a toll on school calendars.
"I trust the legislature will find a balance between students' need for instruction and the pressure to dismiss school to accommodate summer plans," he said.
The issue is a pressing one for school employees and parents. Efforts to maximize classroom time could conflict with summer vacations if the school year dragged well beyond May, as well as ball tournaments and continuing education plans by teachers.
During the House debate Friday, Republican Rep. Bart Rowland said he received several calls in the aftermath of the House's work Thursday to pass a new two-year state budget. None of the calls was about the state's spending plan.
"They were all from my local school districts wanting to know how quickly ... were we going to get a final decision on the school snow-day bill," he said.
Rowland said his local school officials indicated they don't intend to request waivers for all 10 allowable days if the House bill becomes law. But they want to avoid continuing classes into June, he said.
He urged the Senate to go along with the House's version.
"The language in this bill is the simplest, it's the cleanest," Rowland said. "And it gives our schools the flexibility to do what they need to do to finish out the school year."
Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, said waiving two weeks of school would be a mistake.
"Our superintendents and our school districts have to be much more creative to adapt here," he said.
He mentioned longer school days and even weekend classes as options to make up the lost time.
The House legislation is HB410.