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State College School Board Agrees to Make Up Snow Days in April, Discusses Extending School Day for Elementary Students

by on March 03, 2014 8:51 PM

The State College Area School board agreed Monday night to schedule two snow make-up days for April.

The board approved the academic calendar change with an 8-to-0 vote. Board member Laurel Zydney was absent.

Specifically, the board agreed to shift April 16 and April 17 from elementary and middle school parent-teacher conference days to regular instructional days for all students.

As part of the same measure, administrators are to review the 2014-2015 academic calendar and make recommendations to the board to ensure the district is not in a similar situation next year.

District Superintendent Bob O'Donnell and Assistant Superintendent Mike Hardy asked the school board Monday night to alter the school calendar due to an unexpected number of missed school days.

The last day of school was originally slated for Friday, June 6. Due to severe weather, the district has had to cancel seven days. The district has already made up two of those days.

With the board's calendar adjustment, the last day of classes will be June 11, instead of June 13. Graduation is still slated for June 7.

The district built two snow make-up days into the 2013-2014 calendar with the understanding that any additional make-up days be added to the end of the school year.

The state requires that students attend class for 180 days. The state also requires secondary students receive 990 hours of instruction and elementary students receive 900 hours.

There were several concerns regarding adding all snow days to the end of the year. First, O'Donnell says many parents start scheduling family trips for the week of June 16. Second, several schools in the district do not have proper cooling systems to accommodate summer classes.

Finally, there is some concern among parents who have students enrolled in advanced placement courses. Part of the concern is that the students are not receiving adequate instruction due to missed classes and subsequently would not be prepared for the courses' exams offered in May. By adding instruction days in April, those students would be better prepared for the exams, school officials believe.

If a family has already scheduled a trip for the dates in April, administrators say teachers will provide necessary homework to those students and the district will be accommodating with those parents.

Additionally, for the parents slated to have a conference with their child's teacher on April 16 or April 17, an alternative schedule will be issued.

O'Donnell also briefly discussed the administration's examination of extending the elementary school day to allow for more instruction time, specifically for world languages. At this point, administrators are looking at the feasibility of extending the school day when it comes to factors such as transportation.

The plan is to conduct more research, further discuss the matter with the board, and reach out to parents and teachers for feedback in the fall. If approved, the extended school day would begin in the fall of 2015 at the earliest.

O'Donnell says the State College school district has the second shortest school day in the state for elementary students.

"There's no conversation to make cuts to experiences for kids. It's only about reflecting where we are as a system with our young learners," O'Donnell says.

Board member Jim Leous says, "I'm a firm believe that you learn a lot more about your own language when you study someone else's language."

Board member Scott Fozard said it is important to look at extending the school day and implementing world language curriculum as two separate decisions.

"The primary consideration is should we extend school day to enhance learning opportunities to the kids, period," he says. "And what we do with that time is a separate conversation. They're linked, but they're separate conversations."

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for StateCollege.com. She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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