Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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Opinion

January 24, 2014

School days, school daze

Local schools were closed Thursday. Bitterly cold temperatures and blustery conditions pushed wind chills to 20 degrees below zero.

Winter’s chill will stay a while longer. The National Weather Service forecast temperatures plunging Monday night to 11 below zero.

After the snowstorm that dumped about 12.5 inches on the Kokomo area Jan. 5, the state Department of Education offered school districts that were closed Monday and Tuesday of that week waivers from the required 180 days schools must be in session each year.

The waiver means schools can escape the “very severe financial penalty” they would otherwise incur by canceling one day of instruction, George Frampton, director of the office of accreditation for the education department, told The Elkhart Truth.

This waiver has been used before. Will it be offered again? Winter isn’t over. Local school administrators likely fear their school years extending far into June.

Though Indiana and most other states seem to have settled on 180 as the magic number of school days, there really doesn’t appear to be much educational basis for that. Neighboring Ohio requires 182 days, but there’s no data showing Ohio students are two days’ smarter. Illinois sets the number at 176, and again, it’s hard to say students there are coming up short in the classroom.

Certainly, there might be times when outside events force a change in the school calendar. In the late 1970s, a blizzard and coal strike forced schools to shut down for weeks at a time. Clearly, there was no way for teachers to get through the course work without a change in the schedule.

In a case like that, school administrators would be the first to point out the need for some adjustments to the calendar, but that’s not what we’re talking about here.

We’re talking about tacking on a few days to the end of the school year just so we can say the kids were in class the required number of days. Both students and teachers simply will be marking time.

We would favor a law that gave school administrators a bit more discretion. The goal here should be the best possible education, not the greatest number of days spent in the classroom.

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