June 3, 2009: State changes mind; students will go extra day of school

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Inpact on YOU: Public school students will attend class on Wednesday, June 3. Teachers will be working on June 4-5 also.

By The Staff

SHEPHERDSVILLE - Students in Bullitt County will not be getting out of school quite as early as they thought.

With much disgust, superintendent Keith Davis received approval from the Bullitt County Public School Board to go along with the mandate of the state Department of Education.

At a special meeting Friday morning, the board opted to amend its current calendar to force students to attend school on Wednesday, June 3. This would extend the revised calendar one day.

The school system would also apply for emergency relief for another day and should receive state approval.

“It continues to be unbelievable,” Davis said of the entire process. “We did exactly what we were supposed to do. I hate that they come back a year later and make such a decision.”

Davis said if the county tried to go against the state board, it could lose $400,000 in state funding.

“They control the purse strings,” said Davis. “Sometimes it’s hard to fight city hall.”

Board attorney Eric Farris said that all the legal options were considered; however, since the commissioner of education has the sole discretion on whether or not to approve the alternative calendar, it might be difficult to fight.

Farris said that although the previous commissioner did approve the calendar, the opinion now is different.

In needing to work with the state, Farris said he could not recommend moving forward with any other option.

Board chairman Sammy Allen commended the local staff on making sure everything was done according to the regulations. The worst part of the situation is the state waited a year before changing its opinion.

Board member Tim Wiseheart was concerned what might happen the next time the district does everything properly and the state decides to slap the hands of the local officials.

The issue goes back nearly a year.

As part of the innovative alternative school calendar submitted for state Department of Education approval last May, Bullitt County students would attend class for a few extra minutes daily. This would allow them to have two days of instructional time built up in case of missed school due to inclement weather. It would also allow for the early dismissal days each month to allow teachers to work on curriculum issues.

With things like hurricane winds and ice storms, the district utilized planned make-up days and the two banked days to announce that classes would be dismissed for the summer on June 2.

School districts are required to provide 1,062 instructional hours for each student each year. Under the alternative schedule submitted and approved by Bullitt County, the instructional hours ranged from 1,075.5 to 1,134.5 hours at Bernheim Middle.

However, Bullitt County officials learned on late on Friday, April 24, that the state Department of Education was rejecting the alternative schedule and required two additional class days be held.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Davis, just prior of a final appeal to the state education officials.

An hour-long discussion on Thursday proved fruitless.

Davis said attendance will be horrible for the additional day.

Plus, a guest instructor has been secured to provide two days of professional development training for teachers, who were already required to be at school.

Plus, teachers and administrators at Overdale and Roby elementary schools have just days to remove all their belongings. Within a week of school closing, the old structures will be demolished as new schools will open in the fall.

“It’s a mess,” said Davis.

Greg Schultz, assistant superintendent for student learning, said the professional development training would continue on June 4, although a location change would be required. June 5 would be the final day for teachers.

Bus drivers and classified workers were already scheduled to work the final two days and Davis didn’t see that as being any problem.

Besides the low attendance, which will cost the district money from the state, Davis said there is no sense making the change so late in the year. The tentative calendar, including the banking of days, was tentatively approved in May 2008. It went through the full state school board on Aug. 4, 2008, and received approval.

Questions were asked by state education staff doing an attendance audit in November but a letter dates March 5, 2009, from the state listed no problems with the calendar.