Everybody's talking about the weather these days, but Kentucky school superintendents are worried about it.
Fayette County Public Schools missed three days of classes due to snowy, icy weather last week, and ran two hours late one other day. Several rural Kentucky school districts have been hit harder than that, even though winter doesn't officially arrive until Tuesday.
It's all enough to make school superintendents wonder: If it's this bad before winter starts, what's it going be like in January and February?
At least one Eastern Kentucky school district isn't waiting to find out.
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The Harlan Independent School District, which missed four days of classes in December, plans to add an hour onto its normal school day. The school board adopted the plan last week as a precaution, noting that three months of winter are still to come, according to the Harlan Daily Enterprise.
Wilson Sears, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, said he can't remember another December when bad weather had caused so many missed school days.
"We have school districts that have missed well over a week already," Sears said last week. "This is maybe the worst December that I can remember in terms of missing school, and I've been involved in education now since 1963."
This comes after last winter, when ice and snow cost some Kentucky school districts so many lost days that they decided to shorten spring break to make them up. That was an extreme step because children and parents always look forward to spring break as a welcome respite from the demands of the school year.
"I'm sure that many school superintendents are concerned about it," said Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education. "You wonder what it's going to be like in January and February because those are the months when schools usually are out in Kentucky. And it's not just because of the weather, it's also because of the flu. And the flu season hasn't even started yet either."
Gross said that if the recent snowy weather continues through the next two months, and the state also is hit by severe flu season, many school districts could find themselves struggling to make up lost classroom time.
Gross noted that Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has said repeatedly that the state's schoolchildren should get all the instructional time that they are legally entitled to receive.
She said a state regulation allows school districts that miss more than 20 days of classes in a school year to ask to be forgiven for any additional days they miss that school year.
Some districts already are almost a quarter of the way to reaching 20 missed days.
The Kentucky General Assembly also sometimes has enacted legislation to waive lost school days in years when winter is particularly tough on the state's school systems.
"Some school districts were still open until near the end of June last year because of the weather," Sears said. "If January and February turn out to be anything like the way they have been in the past few years, things could get out of control."