Fayette County Public Schools will not participate this winter in a program that allows students to work from home when bad weather closes schools.
Last year, at least 40 of 173 Kentucky school districts participated in the program, which lets districts avoid making up as many as 10 snow days.
Fayette County will not participate until at least the 2017-18 school year, district officials said at a school board planning meeting Thursday.
After study on the issue, there is concern about moving forward, Schuronda Morton, interim senior director of school leadership, told the school board. The concern is for the 4,600 students who are considered special education students or English language learners who would need additional assistance on those days.
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In May, the school board voted to apply for the Kentucky Department of Education’s non-traditional instructional program, but board members said at the time that they might not implement the program this school year. Board member Doug Barnett said he would not agree to implementing the program unless the district used the 2016-17 school year to develop a plan for it.
“There are still things we need to look at” before implementing non-traditional instruction, Morton told the board Thursday. “With 40,000 students, we have to ensure that everyone is receiving the instruction they need. We have to be sure that every student’s needs are met.”
Morton said district officials would continue to investigate how the program might be implemented in Fayette County, “but at this time it’s not feasible for us to move forward.”
Using online and pencil-and-paper assignments, a district would conduct school through non-traditional means on as many as 10 days when school is called off. The district would have to show evidence of student participation and student learning, and if Kentucky Department of Education officials find the results valid, the district would not have to make up those days.
Superintendent Manny Caulk said he wants to learn from districts that already have implemented the snow-day instruction program: “How they meet the needs of students with disabilities, students who are English language learners. We want to see some of the innovative approaches they are taking, learn from that, and apply it to scale here in Fayette County.”
If the district ultimately implements the program, it will have to meet several criteria from the state Education Department to deliver instruction digitally and to students who don’t have online access, and to students with disabilities.
“As we explored it, investigated it, we realized we had some challenges with ensuring that every child is engaged in meaningful learning,” Caulk told the Herald-Leader.
He said that among the challenges are providing occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy to disabled students.
“If you are out for 10 days, that’s significant,” he said.
“In a district of this size, we really need to plan,” Morton said.
If the program is implemented in Fayette County, “there will be glitches whenever it does start.”
She said the discussion has not ended. “We will continue to look at it and talk about it.”
Applications for the program are approved by the state education board annually.
Jessamine, Madison and Woodford counties in Central Kentucky and several southeastern Kentucky counties are among the school districts that participated in the program in the 2015-16 school year.