Michael McClaren is in an unenviable position.
As superintendent of Claremore Public Schools, McClaren is faced with the task of finding a way to reconcile school days lost to the recent ice storms while meeting state requirements for number of instruction days in a school year.
“Last week, we lost five class days to inclement weather,” McClaren said. “This, following three days already lost to weather from earlier in the school year — so, we’re essentially having to recapture two weeks of classes.”
Oklahoma state law requires at least 175 days of instruction throughout the course of an academic year.
The 2006-07 Claremore schools calendar has 181 days of classes scheduled, five of which are professional development days, and one of which is split for parent-teacher conferences and an end-of-year “record keeping” day for educators.
Last month, the Claremore School Board approved a revised school calendar to recover the 66three class days already lost — including the addition of an extra day at the end of the year, and holding classes on Martin Luther King Junior’s Birthday (Jan. 15) and President’s Day, both of which were originally scheduled not to be in session.
With an additional five days of classes being called off due to weather, further revisions are required to the already revised school calendar.
“We’ve been in communication with our regional accreditation officer and with (Oklahoma State Superintendent) Sandy Garrett’s office, and their charge to us is to develop a plan to make up for the days lost to weather,” McClaren said.
Plans currently under discussion for the recouping of the lost days include shortening Spring Break, hosting Saturday School, lengthening the school year, and converting a parent/teacher conference day into class time.
“Really, there are no solutions people will be happy about — any decision made isn’t going to be popular, but we’re trying to make the best of what’s being required of us by the state department,” he said.
Of the decisions being examined, adding class days to the end of the school year is the “least intrusive” on the plans of parents, students and teacher, McClaren said.
“We polled our teachers and found that 10 to 15 percent of them already have plans for Spring Break, and when we look at holding classes on Saturday, you run into a problem of having students actually attend,” he said. “If student attendance isn’t significant, the school is penalized for it — it’s almost not worth opening the doors for.”
Should the lost school days be added onto the end of the school year calendar, that would make the last day of classes on May 31, three days after Memorial Day.
“If we can convert one parent/teacher conference day into an instruction day and host the conferences over a series of evenings, it’s possible for us to get out of school on the last day of May — not the optimum time from an educational standpoint, as many people think of Memorial Day as the start of summer,” he said.
McClaren noted that Good Friday may be an unfortunate casualty to the make up days — which he had hoped to prevent.
“We wanted to safeguard Good Friday this year, but with so many days to recapture, it’s looking like that will be one of the days we have to pick up as a make up day,” he said.
Another factor, McClaren said, was teacher concerns about upcoming statewide testing.
“Our staff already has voiced concern about maximizing our time to prepare for state testing,” he said. “There’s been talk that the state offices are working with testing vendors and contractors to possibly push the testing window back and allow schools more time to prepare for it, which is good. We take the tests very seriously and every additional day of instruction counts.”
McClaren said that he would hope to have a revised school calendar ready for approval by the February meeting of the Claremore School Board, but was reserved to consider it a “final” school calendar.
“This has been an unusual year in terms of making up for lost days, but we’re still not out of January yet,” he said. “February and even March have been known for having contentious weather, so we’re hoping we don’t have to deal with the task of making up even more days to bad weather.”
COUNTY SUPERINTENDENTS SOUND OFF
Claremore isn’t the only school district having to wrestle with finding a way to recovering class time after the recent bout of bad weather.
Administrators at Sequoyah, Foyil, and all other public schools in Rogers County are having to pore over their options while rethinking their school calendars.
What other school administrators are saying:
“In this most recent bout of bad weather, we lost four days — we were out Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday, so we have seven days to make up for (three days already lost from November’s snows). I explored the idea of adding extra instructional time in the classroom but I doubt the state department would approve that, so we’ll make up days by having class on President’s Day and Good Friday, and by adding four days the end of the school calendar, making May 31 the last day of classes for students .
Taking days out of Spring Break was brought up, but I wouldn’t even consider that — it would be too disruptive on the plans already made by members of the community and our faculty.
We don’t like to have classes past Memorial Day, but we really didn’t have a lot of choices available to us.”
—Michael McGregor, Foyil Public Schools superintendent
“We’re waiting to see what options the state gives us —there’s the possibility of using two days of our Spring Break to get out before Memorial Day, and allow us more time to prepare for the state tests.
Our first priority right now though is to make sure we get all the days in the state requires of us.”
— Mike Payne, Verdigris Public Schools superintendent
“Before last week, we’d already lost three days from the last go ‘round in November, for which we had three built-in snow days. Now, we’re looking at adding the make up four days at the end of the year.
We sincerely hope we’re not faced with having to find a way to make up for any more days lost to bad weather — that would be a dilemma.”
— Rick Thomas, Oologah-Talala Public Schools superintendent
“We’re better off than some of the other Districts — we only lost two days in November and four days last week, plus, Inola has four built-in snow days.
My preference would be to lengthen the school day instead of making up the extra days at the end of the year. I feel that an extra five minutes class time a day is hardly noticed, and more productive than asking students — particularly seniors who have already been through graduation ceremonies — to come back for additional days. The state department has told us that’s not an option at this point, so our best bet is to tack on the make up days to the end of the school calendar, putting May 31 as our last day of classes. We’re all having to be flexible in this.
If we don’t have any more snow days, which we may since Oklahoma can get heavy snows all the way through March, we should be in pretty good shape.
— Jake Crutchfield, Inola Public Schools superintendent
Michael McClaren is in an unenviable position.