Cancellations Force Schools to Eliminate Holiday Breaks

Despite the threat of flooding this weekend, local school districts hope the worst of the winter weather is behind them.

Due to a high number of cancellations and delays, a number of schools have had to eliminate portions of their spring and holiday breaks to ensure students receive as much time in a classroom as possible, while others will have students attend classes until the middle of June.

“During the last legislative session, the number of days that would be allowed in the school schedule to recapture lost time was increased to eight,” Marshall County Schools Superintendent Fred Renzella said of West Virginia law.

Schools in the district have been closed seven times for inclement weather with a number of two-hour delays being implemented as well.

To make up for the lost time, Renzella said four of those days will be taken from the students’ spring break, which was originally scheduled to begin April 18 with students returning to the classroom on April 26. Now, April 18-21 will be used as makeup days, though Renzella said a smaller break is still being scheduled.

“Students will still be out of school on Friday the 22nd and Monday the 25th, so even though we have had to modify the break, one still exists,” he said of the April break.

Renzella said the advantage of being able to use those days is that students will not be kept deeper into the summer.

He added because winter weather can be so unpredictable, having days to make up for lost time has been positively received.

“No prognosticator can predict what the weather will be like when we are making our calendar,” he said. “This gives us some options to deal with those cancellations.”

Some districts are currently working on ways to structure their calendars to allow for earlier start dates, something Renzella said could have an effect on cancellation days.

“The goal is to start school earlier and get the first semester in prior to the Christmas break,” he said, adding more time would then be implemented in the second semester for makeup days. “We think that sort of scheduling could help.”

Other districts in the area have faced even more canceled days, including Tyler County. Students there have missed 11 days, eight of which will be made up over the next few months.

According to Tyler County Schools Superintendent Robin Daquilante, those eight days were built into the end of this year’s calendar as a precautionary measure.

“We are sitting in a much better position than in recent years,” she said.

Daquilante said the district’s hands are tied by state sanctions regarding the amount of time districts are given to complete a year of school. She said though eight days were built in for makeup time, any further cancellations cannot be made up due to teacher contracts.

“There is a specific number of days to be designated as instructional days, and there are time allotments for service personnel, so any other days we would want to use as makeup days, we would need to pay our staff,” she said.

In creating a school calendar, Daquilante said days termed “out of school environment days” can be used to make up for lost time. The district designated those days at the end of the year, making it impossible to use spring break as makeup time.

“We are comfortable with the amount of time we have provided for students to make up the work they have missed,” Daquilante said.

In Ohio, only three calamity days are allowed for a district each year.

However, pending legislation would change that to five days, something Switzerland of Ohio School District Superintendent Larry Elliott said would be appreciated.

“We have enough time built into our existing calendar to make up for the eight days we have missed,” he said. “We aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary.”

The district will extend the school year by five days to make up for lost time. Elliott said that is a small price to pay to ensure the safety of students and employees.

“We view those five lost days as days when we were concerned with safety, and safety comes first,” he said. “We can always provide instruction in the future to make up for that lost time.”

Other districts in the Ohio Valley have also taken steps to make up for days lost due to inclement weather, including:

  • In Ohio County, a spring break originally scheduled for next week will now be used for regular instruction days. Additionally, students will be in school on May 27, a day originally set aside for teacher development.

The district has also been forced to cancel classes seven times so far this school year.

  • In Brooke County, students will make up six days at the end of the school year, with the last day for instruction being June 14.
  • In Hancock County, two days will be taken from the district’s spring break and five days will be added at the end of the year to make up for seven missed days.
  • In St. Clairsville, where students have missed four days of school, the first day of spring break will be used for instruction.
  • Officials in Wetzel County will discuss additional makeup days during a March 21 board of education meeting. The board decided to wait to make a decision in the event more inclement weather would hit the Ohio Valley.