Students IN session Friday, next Monday

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Don’t make any long weekend plans

By Thomas Barr

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - Bullitt County Public School students better forget about that four-day weekend.

With 13 days missed already due to inclement weather, the Bullitt County Public School Board was faced with a no-win situation Monday evening.

Not knowing the direction of the state General Assembly in terms of granting grace days due to weather, the school board unanimously voted to use Friday, Feb. 14, and Monday, Feb. 17, as two make-up days.

March 28 had already been designated as a school day.

With the action -- barring no more days missed -- the final day of school is Friday, June 6, at this point.

“There is  no good answer,” board chairman Tim Wiseheart said Monday evening.

Pat Smith-Darnell, the district’s director of pupil personnel, said the board had several options.

It could do nothing and the final day of classes would be on June 10.

Or it could use Friday and next Monday and the final day for students would be June 6, with teachers closing out the year on Monday, June 9.

Another option would be to hold classes on Saturday. That was quickly dismissed as the cost would be around $105,000 a day.

Finally, the board could eliminate the early release days but Smith-Darnell said that would have no effect on the calendar.

Since the district has an innovative alternative calendar under the state’s definition, the option of extending the school days may not be an option.

Spending hours discussing the matter, Smith-Darnell said the current interpretation is that the district must stick with its calendar and not extend days.

However, superintendent Keith Davis believes that if the state follows the statutes and not the Department of Education’s interpretation, adding minutes might be a possibility.

Within a few days, Davis feels there might be some final ruling from the state Department of Education.

But with the two days available, Davis said he would recommend using them.

A survey done within the district showed that 63 percent favored using those two days.

Wiseheart said he understands the short notice and the fact that some had already set up medical appointments and long weekend trips that might not be refundable.

Davis said he also falls into that category.

He would expect the principals will be students who might be absent due to prior engagements. He said teachers would receive that same consideration.

There is no doubt that those two days will have lower attendance, said Davis.

At the same time, Davis said there are families who have trips for the second week of June thinking that it would be safe to make summer vacation plans.

“It’s not just us,” Davis said of the crazy winter weather. 

Elliott County, for example, has missed 21 days of school.

In talking with state Rep. Russell Webber, Davis expects the General Assembly to make some provisions to waive several of the required days.

Board member Roger Hayes said he would be inclined to use Friday but keep Monday as a holiday. 

Another consideration was using the day before the Kentucky Derby, which has traditionally been a day off.

Board member Dolores Ashby said that the public needs to understand why that day has been off. It wasn’t so education employees could go to the Kentucky Oaks.

Instead, it is a major fund-raising day for many school groups.

Davis estimated that hundreds of thousands of dollars is generated that day and over the rest of the Derby weekend by school groups.

One teacher who is in her second year in the district was worried that she had something planned and had no days off to take.

A bus driver asked that under his contract, he might ask to be excused for several days in June if it conflicts with the state FFA convention.

Davis said the district will be as lenient as possible.

One unknown will be the extension of the school day.

Ideally, Davis said he would like to add 15-20 minutes to the school day and get back to the original May 30 ending date.

Greg Schultz, assistant superintendent for student learning, said that graduation ceremonies could be complicated with the longer school year for Jefferson County.

Traditionally, Bullitt County schools have all graduated in Broadbent Arena on the same day.

If Jefferson County, which is slated to end the year on June 9 after its Monday night decision, has priority in graduation locations.

Schultz said that if there is a conflict, the local schools could be looking to have commencement exercises return to their gymnasiums.

“This is an unusual situation,” Davis said of the winter weather.

It was back in the late 1970s when the district last missed more days due to weather.