Scott County Public Schools students will 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.
“Our biggest motivation was that we felt like we were losing some good instructional days because of the amount of snow days that we potentially could miss,” said Maurice W. Chappell, assistant superintendent of student learning. “Extending the calendar into the summer was getting less and less effective.”
With online and pencil-and-paper assignments, districts conduct school through non-traditional means on as many as 10 days when school is called off. The district has to show evidence of student participation and student learning, and if Kentucky Department of Education officials find the results valid, the district does not have to make up those days. The district has 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.
Chappell said sometimes Scott County Schools, with about 8,800 students, miss more days during the winter than other Central Kentucky districts because it’s a large county and weather in the northern part of the county can become more extreme.
In preparation for the program, each principal is working with their staff on specific details. A district committee has set up some parameters for how many hours each day students at various levels should be working from home when inclement weather closes schools, Chappell said. For example, the suggested amount of time for high school students to work on academics on snow days is four hours, Chappell said.
The work teachers give all students on those days will be assignments that students can accomplish on their own with minimal help from a parent or caregiver, Chappell said. Typically, students will not be required to work on new material that teachers have not previously covered. An exception could be in high school advanced placement courses, Chappell said.
Students who don’t have online access will be given paper and pencil assignments.
Applications for the program are approved by the state education board annually.
Fayette County Schools, which has about 40,000 students, will not participate until at least the 2017-18 school year, district officials said at a school board planning meeting earlier this month.
One concern is for the 4,600 students who are considered special education students or English language learners who would need additional assistance on snow days.
Chappell said in Scott County, special education teachers and English language learner teachers have developed specific assignments for snow days. Speech and language pathologists have also created special lessons for snow days, he said.
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.