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Officials: Extending school day not answer

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As families watched each snow day cut their spring breaks short, some educators were more concerned with disappearing test-preparation time.

Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. has missed seven days due to the weather. Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp has missed eight.

Pair that with about a dozen two-hour delays, and that’s more than 60 hours of instructional time.

Schools statewide have missed similar amounts of school, and that’s why Glenda Ritz, state superintendent of public instruction, has told reporters that she will offer districts the option to make up a snow day by adding an hour to several consecutive school days or allowing online weekend instruction.

Although BCSC Superintendent John Quick said he appreciates the discussion about how to make up the snow days, he is not keen on the extended school day.

“Educationally, it is better to spread hours of instruction across more days rather than extend days,” he said. “There is a point of diminishing return due to fatigue, particularly with younger learners.”

Because the state Department of Education has not yet released an official plan for the conditional waivers, Flat Rock-Hawcreek Superintendent Kathy Griffey said “there’s still nothing to consider.”

She did acknowledge teachers are working hard to make up as much instructional and preparation time as they can.

“That’s been a concern for teachers since the first day we lost,” she said.

There are several factors the district would need to consider before adding extra hours to the day, such as how much it would cost in overtime pay and how extracurricular activities would be affected.

To Quick, those factors are too much.

“Logistically, families have many other commitments that may be in conflict if we extend the day,” he said. “Many of our 1,800 employees have other commitments, including second jobs that are in conflict should we extend the day.”

Both superintendents expressed some relief that the State Board of Education voted to extend the ISTEP testing window by seven days — although they won’t see the full benefits.

The original testing window set for March 3 to 12 has been extended to March 3 to 21, but five of those extra days fall during spring break for both districts.

Flat Rock-Hawcreek and BCSC schools will still have an additional two days to either prepare for the ISTEP or administer it.

“It helps a little bit,” Quick said.

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