School districts would apply to use instruction days during snow under bill

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – Legislation that would give the Kentucky Department of Education more oversight of school districts that allow coursework to be completed on snows days is heading to the House floor.

Senate Bill 73 cleared the House Education Committee on a nearly unanimous vote Tuesday, with Rep. Rick Nelson, D-Middlesboro, voting “pass.”

The bill originally would have ended the program for non-traditional instruction districts by the 2021-22 school year, but the House education panel passed an amended version of SB 73 that establishes guidelines for the Kentucky Board of Education to approve such plans starting in the 2019-20 school year.

Those parameters include how districts apply for the program, reporting requirements to the state, how KDE will monitor districts once they’re approved for non-traditional instruction days and how long districts will be approved for the program.

Out of 174 school districts in the state, 75 have been authorized to use non-traditional school days to avoid making up snow days. Districts can use up to 10 non-traditional school days.

The General Assembly authorized school districts to implement non-traditional instruction days as part of a pilot program created in 2011. David Cook, KDE’s director of innovation and partner engagement, said districts have used nearly 1,000 non-traditional instruction days since the program’s inception.

Sen. David Givens, R-Greensburg, said in his experience, parents have seen their children get too much or too little school work to justify using non-traditional instruction days.

Givens said his own sons recently told him that after making up two days of snow through non-traditional instruction, they were ready to go back to school because the lessons were “too hard” and they were “working too hard here at home.”

Others didn’t see much rigor in their children’s coursework during snow days.

“I’ll run into someone at the grocery store and they’ll say, ‘Geez, my child watched a five-minute video and took 10 minutes to answer two questions, and that’s a full day’s credit? Sen. Givens, my taxpayer money’s not being well spent when that happens,’” said Givens, sponsor of SB 73.

Metcalfe County Schools Superintendent Benny Lile said the current non-traditional instruction program allows a “continuation of learning” for students and gives districts more flexibility in developing its school calendars.

“It’s not a perfect system at this point, but we continue to work toward that and try to make it a clear continuation,” Lile told the House Education Committee.

Rep. John “Bam” Carney, the committee’s chairman, called SB 73 “a great step forward.”

“In many districts, the rigor does need to increase significantly, and I think this hopefully will bring attention to that,” said Carney, R-Campbellsville.

SB 73 also would allow districts to establish pilot programs for performance-based professional development projects, which could be used for up to three days of the four-day requirement for teachers’ professional development.

KDE would be tasked with studying the projects and determining how effective they were, and the professional development pilot projects would be an option for teachers from the 2018-19 school year through 2020-21, according to the bill.

SB 73 passed the Senate on a 36-0 vote Jan. 22.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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