Eleven skipped school days due to miserable weather have added to the stress of preparing students for ISTEP testing.
“We’ve had 87 lost instructional hours,” including days off and shortened school days due to delayed openings, Batesville Community School Corp. superintendent Dr. Jim Roberts announced at Monday’s meeting. “Last week was our first full week since the week before Thanksgiving.” Looking at the two students in the audience, he said, “Vacation’s over, kids!”
Students have made up just two days so far, Jan. 20 and Feb. 17. Trustees voted Jan. 20 and Feb. 17 that they must attend school on these nine upcoming makeup days: March 17-21 (all of spring break’s first of two weeks), April 18 (Good Friday), May 30 and June 2-3.
State superintendent of public instruction Glenda Ritz will allow school corporations to apply for waivers for missed days on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7 only, which means, if granted, those students will go to school for 178 days instead of the required 180. Roberts recalled, “We did talk at the last meeting about looking at the waiver situation more seriously” if more days off occurred, which they did. He will discuss the pros and cons of waivers with administrators Feb. 25.
With many more snow days than usual, Ritz also decided school corporations have the flexibility to make up days in other ways, such as e-learning from home, longer school days and Saturdays. Students in many districts are going to school one hour longer for six days to make up one day, the superintendent said.
Trustee Wanita Linkel asked, “Are they looking at moving ISTEP” testing dates? Roberts said Indiana Department of Education officials extended the window by a week, so the test must be taken between March 3-21. Batesville Middle School students will take it March 10-12. Batesville Intermediate School third-graders will complete the I-READ test March 10-11, then ISTEP testing will begin there March 12.
Of the alternatives Ritz offered, Roberts noted BCSC doesn’t have e-learning in grades K-12 yet. “We will be (ready) next year.”
He was pessimistic about how much students would learn on Saturdays. “I don’t think we have to get weird with time or Saturdays.” He observed that IHSAA-sanctioned tournaments might conflict with Saturday makeup dates. Trustee Cindy Blessing maintained, “Our kids are not accustomed to that and I think there’s a point where they shut down” and quit learning.
Of going to school an hour longer on certain days, the administrator said, “We have a lot of things that happen at 3:30,” such as a musical rehearsal for 90 and athletes practicing various sports. Extending the school day would “complicate all those things that are already scheduled.”
Ritz recently called Roberts. “She noticed that we had planned pretty well for this year” as far as makeup days are concerned. “Many if not most school systems have not.”
“Not this year, but in the future, we might look at the way we allocate the day” to prepare for ISTEP if many days are missed. Specific ISTEP subjects might have to be emphasized while other classes are postponed until after testing. Trustee Dr. Steve Stein suggested, “If you wish to put more time into the subjects that are going to be tested, that could be part of an extended day.”
Attendee Mary Rogers reported that another school district guarantees the first week of spring break off. If makeup days are needed, they start at the end of spring break’s second week and go backward. Roberts promised to get some absence rate data from other superintendents. “What seemed to work?”
The superintendent said he welcomes ideas about how to make up time when weather calls off school.
Debbie Blank can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.
• School administrators in Ripley, Franklin, Decatur and Dearborn counties, including BCSC, taking part in a recently-formed education coalition are gathering data about where the educational gaps are in southeast Indiana. • Now consultants at EMCOR Construction Services, Fort Wayne, are finishing an engineering study for energy savings at Batesville Primary School. At the March 17 board meeting, trustees will consider a summer project estimated at $2 million or less. They may adopt a preliminary bond resolution then with a final bond resolution vote scheduled for April 21. • Annual evaluations for about 100 classified employees who are paid at hourly rates and do not require certification happen at the end of each calendar year. Following Roberts' recommendation, trustees OK'd merit increases and also across-the-board 2.5 percent pay hikes retroactive to Jan. 1. "It is in line with the certified pay (increases)," he said. After the vote, President Chris Lowery noted he was "really pleased" BCSC had the funds to reward workers. "I think we have a lot of unsung heroes." • Batesville Community Education Foundation administrator Kelly Poltrack and BCEF board members organized two fundraisers, the sixth annual Tip-Off Chili Dinner Jan. 31 and Western Night Feb. 8. According to the superintendent, "Both events were very successful and had record attendance." • The board will tour Southeastern Career Center Sept. 15. • The board approved personnel recommendations: Certified - resignation: Elizabeth Miller, BPS second-grade teacher (effective 2014-15 school year); new: Kayla Bradley, BIS teacher of emotional disabilities (effective 2014-15 school year); Sue Pieczonka, BMS homebound instructor; transfer: Shannon Wells, BIS third-grade teacher (from fourth grade, effective 2014-15 school year); Extracurricular - resignation: Miranda Stirn, BHS Dance Team coach (effective 2014-15 school year); new: Derek Suits, BMS track assistant coach; Brett Mathews, BMS wrestling volunteer assistant coach; Katlyn Zimmerle, BHS girls tennis assistant coach.