INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana schools won’t get a free pass for the mounting number of days lost to weather cancellations this winter. But they will have some flexibility as they figure out how to make up the time.
The state Department of Education announced Thursday that schools can reschedule holidays, hold classes on Saturdays or extend the school year without seeking a state waiver. They also can extend the school day and seek a conditional waiver when they’ve made up the equivalent of one day of instruction.
Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz announced the options in a news release, saying many superintendents she’d spoken with had asked for flexibility in scheduling instructional time.
Indiana requires schools to provide 180 days of instruction or lose funding for each missed day, Department of Education spokesman Daniel Altman said.
The state has already offered unconditional waivers for two days missed in January due to extremely cold temperatures. Even with those waivers, many school districts expect to extend classes into June after harsh conditions in January forced some schools to close for a week straight.
Fort Wayne Community Schools have missed 11 days so far this year, a 15-year high, said spokeswoman Krista Stockman. School will be in session until June 11 — six days later than planned.
“For now, it’s easier to add those days on than to try to extend the school day,” Stockman said. “For a district our size, extending the school day would really be a logistical nightmare.”
Other schools hope to avoid lengthening the semester at any cost.
Plans are underway at Westfield Washington Schools to extend school days by about an hour to make up for four weather closings. The district has closed for nine days in all, said Cindy Keever, executive director of student support programs for the district.
Adding the extra hour will save the district from keeping students after the semester ends, and Keever said that translates to more meaningful class time.
“The flexibility was really important for us,” Keever said. “It helped us keep instructional time when it has the most positive impact so we’re not tacking it on at the end of the year.”
The longer school days aren’t without a price. The district must shuffle its lunch hours and rework bus schedules, and the longer days will conflict with some students’ after-school jobs.
Fishers resident and parent Janel Bantz said she worried about how an extra hour could affect student stamina.
“I would be OK with them extending the day by 15 minutes, but I would not want my kids to go to school an extra hour,” Bantz said. “It’s hard to stay focused toward the end of the day.”