Students in Eastern Ky. Return to Class for First Time in Weeks

By: Olivia Fecteau Email
By: Olivia Fecteau Email

MARTIN COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) – Students in eastern Kentucky were finally back in class Wednesday after snow and cold weather kept them out for weeks. For many, school will be in session until June.

In Martin County, where students started more than two weeks late in August, the district is having an especially rough time. When Sheldon Clark High School closed in August due to nearby blasting and drilling, the district had to shuffle students around, combining two middle schools to make room for high school students.

With weather causing more days out of school, students have now been out of class for more than 30 days this year.

“Kentucky's calendar is just not built to handle the amount of days we've missed,” Kraig Grayson, director of pupil personnel for Martin County Schools, said. “It’s awful. I mean, this is our eighth day since Christmas break, in roughly eight or nine weeks.”

“They may get seven, eight weeks of summer if they're lucky, and that's if it doesn't snow any more,” Ervin Stepp, whose daughters go to school in Martin County, said.

Stepp said going to school in the summer would be annoying for his daughter, who is a freshman in high school. For his daughter who is in seventh grade and is autistic, it has been a lot worse.

“Autistic children – they like a pattern, they have to have a certain sequence, an order of events that makes things a lot smoother for them, and this has been kind of hard on her because everything's been so sporadic,” Stepp said.

Grayson told he can’t remember a year this bad since he was in elementary school here about 30 years ago. As of Wednesday, he said students had missed 13 days from starting late in the fall and an additional 21 due to weather. However, the district has now added 29 days back by cutting out all scheduled breaks and scheduling students to attend school on Memorial Day, plus extending the calendar until June 11.

That will help them along toward the state requirement of 170 instruction days, or 1,062 hours, for students before June 30. Regardless of when the last day is, testing takes place during the last two weeks of the school year.

Grayson told that adding time to the end of days doesn’t help and that 170 days is a hard number, unless the commissioner can allow them “disaster days” once they’ve missed 20 days of instruction.

“We're at that point. We're at 21, but we don't really know what to ask for yet, so we're going to let winter take its course and then see what we need,” Grayson said. “We're looking at the weather a minute ago, and tomorrow doesn't look good.”

Grayson said that affects both classroom instruction – as time is used to review instead of teaching new material – and attendance.

“I did have a parent call that had put a down payment or deposit on Disney World, and it was like $1,000 and they couldn't get it back,” Grayson said. “We’re now funded on average daily attendance, so if the kid's not in the seat, we don't get the money. That's why we can't have school when it snows.”

He added, “Say what you want, you have to run a school as a business. I mean, we care for them, we do what we can when we're there, but we have to pay the bills.”

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