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WEATHER CHALLENGES: Snow days not so fun anymore

February 12, 2014

Whitley County Consolidated Schools’ Business Manager Tony Zickgraf (left) and Superintendent Patricia O’Connor discuss the 2013-14 calendar and consider adjustments after students have had 14 days off of school so far this year. Post & Mail photo / Nicole Ott

COLUMBIA CITY — This winter’s wild weather is leaving school officials reeling on what to do to make up for lost time. Whitley County Consolidated Schools’ parents and students are becoming all-too-familiar with the sound of Business Manager Tony Zickgraf’s voice, when his voice is heard on calls from the district on a weekly, sometimes daily basis, to close or delay school.

Last week, students only attended school on Tuesday. Poor road conditions were the cause of closings on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Just when teachers thought they’d have their students back in class Friday, a power outage affected four of the district’s schools and forced them to close — making it the 14th school closure of the year.
WCCS Superintendent Pat O’Connor said officials have been concerned about the number of cancellations, but are primarily focused on the safety and security of the students.

“There’s nothing we can do about missing school for the weather — except worry,” O’Connor said. “And we do worry about it. But we need to focus on the safety of our students, then worry about catching up the rest.”
More than the weather, administrators have many factors against them:
•Students, parents and teachers don’t want to be in school until the middle of June.

•The state requires that students have a certain amount of time in the classroom every year.

•After missing several days of class since Winter Break, students aren’t prepared for this spring’s ISTEP test.
•More cancellations could be on the way.
Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz provided some options for administrators to make up for lost time, and even extended the dates for ISTEP testing in an effort to alleviate stress on students and teachers.
Whitley County Consolidated Schools’ officials are looking into Ritz’s options to see if they could apply to local students, but O’Connor said administrators will have to take many factors into consideration before making any decisions.

Ritz offered that students could make up for lost time through online classes. While most students have access to the internet and a computer, many do not. The library is a viable option, but without a district-wide technology program, O’Connor said making up full days of school on computers is not an option for WCCS.

“Eagle Tech Academy students are the only ones who all have laptops — the students submits most assignments online,” O’Connor said. “But without a fully-implemented 1-to-1 technology program, we can’t require students to complete tasks online, especially the younger students.”

To read the rest of this story, see the Feb. 11 issue of The Post and Mail. Don't have a subscription? Call (260) 244-5153 or subscribe to our e-edition. For breaking news, sports updates and additional coverage, bookmark the homepage and find us on facebook and twitter.

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