Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

January 24, 2014

Students face eight makeup days

Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune

---- — The snow: pretty unless there’s too much. This winter’s weather: cold, colder, coldest. BBBRRRR!

School makeup days due to cancellations are “kind of a hot topic in the community,” Batesville Community School Corp. superintendent Dr. Jim Roberts told trustees Jan. 20.

Eight days have been missed so far: Dec. 6, Dec. 10, Dec. 16, Jan. 6, Jan. 7, Jan. 8, Jan. 17 and Jan. 21.

These scheduled makeup days will take effect, he announced: Jan. 20 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), Feb. 17 (Presidents Day), March 17-21 (all of spring break’s first of two weeks) and April 18 (Good Friday). “Obviously, (remedial and enrichment learning) intersessions are sacrificed” during spring break because of the makeup days.

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.

BCSC is not applying for waivers yet because Roberts feels it’s important for students to get in as much education as they can before standardized tests in April and May. Makeup days after those tests or, worse yet, for seniors after graduation won’t be as effective.

In addition to phone calls and e-mails from parents begging for the waivers so families can take already-planned vacations during spring break’s first week, “I’ve heard things like waiving the days might save the corporation money. Here’s the math on that”: BCSC spends $60,000 per day for personnel ($40,000 for salaried teachers, $10,000 for hourly classified employees and $10,000 for 12-month employees). If two days are waived, BCSC would save $20,000 on bus drivers and hourly employees, but $100,000 would be spent “whether we make them up or not.”

If more bad weather arrives, Roberts said BCSC may apply for waivers before the June 1 deadline. The alternative is for students to attend classes May 30, then June 2 on. Graduation is slated for June 7. “I appreciate the flexibility (of having waivers). I think we might need it,” he admitted.

Worried about a mass exodus of students during spring break’s first week, trustee Wanita Linkel asked, “How many pupils can be out” for the district to remain accredited? The superintendent answered that if 20 percent or more are absent, numbers must be reported so the Indiana State Department of Health can determine illness outbreaks. “Our normal attendance is 97 percent.” The school day before Thanksgiving it was 96 percent. During the first day of 2013’s spring break, also used as a makeup day, “we had OK attendance.” He didn’t think it would be much of an issue and pointed out, “We can grant excused absences for vacation time.”

BCSC President Chris Lowery reported, “I am emphatically in support of Dr. Roberts’ approach.” He posed a hypothetical situation. What if a high school student failed an end-of-course assessment (a passing grade is necessary to graduate) by one question in late spring? He wondered if two more days of school before the test would have made a difference.

Speaking of calling off school due to nasty weather or applying for waivers, the administrator said, “We make the best decisions we can, and hopefully people understand.”

Lowery contemplated more school days called off and wondered if in the future students could use laptops and other tech devices while snug in their homes under teachers’ oversight so the virtual learning could count as a school day. Roberts liked the idea, “as long as we can get (state) approval” beforehand. He will research if other Hoosier districts have successfully done this.

Debbie Blank can be contacted at debbie.blank@batesvilleheraldtribune.com or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.

• Out of 596 high school teams, Batesville High School tied for ninth place in the U.S. in the Wordwright Challenge. "Awesome job!" Roberts said. BHS students Morgan Oesterling, Heidi Shaw and Emma Stevens achieved highest individual honors and Molly Jones, Caleb Moster, Mary Poltrack and Rick Werner were awarded honorable mentions. The national competition requires close reading of many different kinds of poetry and prose. BCSC President Chris Lowery said, "We're really proud of you." He told their parents, "We know these are really good students and you have something to do with that … what happens at home really matters." According to language arts teacher Gerilyn Lowery, "We really think this is a great tool for our AP students" to prepare for future English tests. "They are AP and SAT style questions." Stevens, a sophomore, reported the challenge "was not exactly recreational, but it wasn't like this big long exam. It was 11 questions." • Batesville Community Education Foundation's Western Night, open to the public, is Saturday, Feb 8, at Walhill Farm. The dinner with a cash bar begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by a dance with easy rock and country music provided by Nuttin' Fancy, reported administrator Kelly Poltrack. On the menu are salad, pulled pork barbecue, Parmesan-crusted chicken, roasted new potatoes with herbs, sauteed vegetable medley, rolls and assorted bread puddings. She explained, "We will be offering chances for people to become honorary BCEF deputies by donating $10 in their favorite teacher's name to our Teachers Fund. The teachers will be recognized afterwards. Additionally, we will be giving a short presentation about three of our major fundraising initiatives: the 1:1 computer initiative for all students, future global curriculum and interaction with China and our Teachers Fund, which allows us to provide grants for teacher requests. People will have the chance to help these projects by making donations following the presentation." Poltrack added, "The attire is casual with a Western theme. If you would like, definitely, you can wear your jeans." Tickets for the major fundraiser are $50 per person or $95 per couple. To RSVP: kpoltrack@batesville.k12.in.us. Checks may be made payable to BCEF, P.O. Box 121, Batesville, IN 47006; or payment can be done online at www.batesvilleeducationfoundation.org. Donations to BCEF are tax deductible.