With Frankfort’s help local districts may get out of school sooner


by Joe Arnold


Posted on March 7, 2014 at 6:29 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 7 at 8:09 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Could Frankfort come to the rescue of local school districts facing a longer school year after lots of snow days?

In an interview with WHAS11, Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens said Friday the district may be able to start summer vacation earlier than scheduled right now, depending on emergency legislation pending in the Kentucky House.

"One or two (days)... three would be great," Hargens said.  "But our last day is Thursday, (June) 12th. And if you did decide to extend the school day, you'd be able to knock more off."

Depending on the effect of legislation, Hargens said the district is thinking about extending the school day, perhaps a half hour each day for the rest of the year, if it would mean shortening the school year.

"We would have to take that to the calendar committee and to the board," Hargens said.  "But, we're waiting for something to happen with the bill so we can then do our math."

Two bills are pending approval in the Kentucky House.

House Bill 410 would compel the Kentucky Education Commissioner to waive up to 10 missed instructional day. if requested by local boards of education.  The bill is expected to be heard by the House Education Committee next week.

That same committee has already approved House Bill 383, which allows local districts greater flexibility amending school calendars due to an emergency.

"It keeps the integrity of 1062 hours of instructional time," explained the bill's sponsor, Addia Wuchner (R), "but allows districts that flexibility that they have to have 170 days."

By Kentucky law, each school district's school year must have at least 1062 instructional hours and a minimum of 170 school days.

In addition to 11 missed days this year, the JCPS scenario is complicated by four school delays and one early dismissal. 

"The five days we had shorter than our regular time, we can't count those as days," Hargens explained.

HB 383 could change that.

Because JCPS school days last ten minutes longer than required by state law, Hargens said that accumulated time could make a difference if the bill becomes law.

"We would probably be able to knock a day or two off just with the hours that we have banked because we have a longer school day," Hargens said.  "So, if they were willing to and we proposed that we would extend the schol day you might be able to knock off more."

"They can adjust their calendar by thirty minutes and keep adding on, up to 7 hours a day," Wuchner said.  "So they can make up some of those lost days."

The snow days have added up this winter

11 - Jefferson County
12 - Oldham County
12 - Spencer County
13 - Hardin County
13 - Shelby County
15 - Bullitt County

Though Jefferson has the fewest cancellations of the listed districts, because its school year started later than surrounding districts, it has the latest last day of school, June 12.

If nothing changes,summer vacation for JCPS students will be one of the shortest ever. 
The 2014-15 school calendar starts August 13,  one week earlier than the 2013-14 calendar.  That's two months and one day after this year's scheduled last day.

In Oldham County, the traditional Oaks Day holiday is now scheduled as a school day -- the district deciding it the best option compared to other possible days.

"Days like Memorial Day, Spring break days, going to school on Saturdays, going to school in the second week of June," said Oldham County Schools spokeswoman Tracy Harris.  "Out of all those options, we kind of agreed and felt like Oaks Day was the best day for students to make up that snow day."

The pending legislation may save Spring break in Spencer County, where the school board is expected to vote later this month whether to remove two days from spring break.

From Spring break to Summer vacation, Kentucky students' plans are in the hands of state lawmakers in Frankfort.  Good luck.