By Terry Rogers
With the significant amount of snowfall southern Delaware experienced over this winter, school districts throughout the state are now determining how to make up the missed days of school to meet state requirements regarding student days. Under state law, students must receive 1,060 hours of instruction time for grades Kindergarten through 11. Students in grade 12 must receive 1,032 hours of instruction time.
On Thursday, March 20, the Department of Education announced that it would forgive up to six school days missed based on requests from each district. Milford has already adjusted the student calendar, removing two inservice days on March 20 and May 23. That change to the schedule was developed prior to the Monday, March 17 snowfall which closed schools. The district had made the decision to add that day to the end of the school year, but with days forgiven by DOE, they will not have to do that.
“With the forgiveness of up to six school days, the school calendar for both K through 11 and grade 12 will not have to be amended and will remain as initially published,” Dr. Phyllis Kohel, Superintendent explained. “For Milford, the state approved four school days, and we had already made up one by taking away an inservice day, so we are back to the original schedule. Hopefully, it will stay that way.” Dr. Kohel explained that in today’s world of accountability, although students love snow days, it creates significant problems for staff.
“Our administrators and teachers have done a phenomenal job with scheduling testing while still trying to get in their routinely scheduled objectives,” Dr. Kohel said. “Luckily the DCAS has a window of time open for testing, so if we happen to miss a weather related day, teachers can simply extend the testing to the next day. This is frustrating for them, however, because they still worry about having enough instructional time in the classroom to promote student growth.”
Dr. Kohel said missed days are particularly difficult for high school students who are taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes as the AP test given in May is not only their final exam, but could provide them with college credits. Dr. Kohel says that missing seven days in a semester is critical for them, and when adding the fact that juniors must all take the SAT test plus the Smarter Balanced field test that Milford was chosen to pilot, it is easy to see how anxiety levels may rise. Dr. Kohel said that she has asked to have Milford released from the field test.
“Snow days impact teachers in a number of ways,” Dr. Kohel said. “Not only are they frustrated by having to try to cram everything into an already tight schedule, they are frustrated because they feel students are losing out on important instructional time, and we have no control over that.” Dr. Kohel says she has not heard teachers complaining that the students are having trouble focusing on instruction due to the snow days, stating that she believed students may be just as tired of snow as the adults are.
Dr. Kohel said that accountability in education today makes it more important than ever for students to have as much instructional time as possible and having unexpected days off creates a lot of extra work for teachers while also increasing their anxiety level. She praised district staff, however, by saying they had done an “amazing job thus far dealing with the wrath of Mother Nature.”