Winter having chilling effect on class time

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By Joselyn King and Sarah Harmon, Staff Writers
The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

Local school districts seek ways to make up for lost instruction days as frosty weather has hit the Ohio Valley several times this winter, bringing icy roads and below-zero temperatures that make it unsafe for students to travel to their classrooms. They'll have to get even more creative as the weekend's blanket of snow and the coming polar deep freeze will keep children home from school.

In Ohio County, Superintendent Dianna Vargo has a plan to make up for the first six instructional days lost to bad weather. But a seventh day of classes in Ohio County also was canceled Friday, and Vargo is looking with caution toward this week's weather forecast and perhaps additional lost days.

Vargo said she will suggest the Ohio County Board of Education designate four days previously set as days off for spring break for school make up days. The makeup days would be April 14-17, and students would still have off Good Friday, April 18, and the following Monday, April 21, Vargo said.

Her proposal also calls for instructional days on May 23, the Friday prior to Memorial Day, and May 26, the day following the holiday. Any additional make-up dates have yet to be determined, Vargo said. The last day of instruction for students in Ohio County Schools is scheduled for May 30.

Marshall County Schools has used all six of the required make-up days from winter weather cancellations, according to Superintendent Michael Hince. Hince said any additional cancellations will not be recouped.

Cameron schools have had only four days called off for bad weather because of the schools' separate calendar. That schedule there still allows for two more closings.

"There has not been a tremendous amount of snow, but there has been some very cold weather in addition to the snow," Hince said. "It is difficult to have students wait for a bus in the cold, or be on a bus in very cold weather if it would break down or stall. It is also a problem if the bus has any problems starting or has any problem to continue to run because of the cold. Very cold weather and diesel fuel do not go well together for engines to run optimally."

Hince said the timing of weather has much to do with how the county decides if the roads are safe. If it snows early in the day and roads are not cleared until later, students have still missed a full-day of classes, he said.

However, Hince said legislation signed by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin last year will require schools to fit in 180 instructional days by allowing to make-up as many instructional days as needed. Hince said this new policy will go into effect next year.

Hince said if no more snow days occur, Cameron Elementary and High Schools will finish June 9, and the rest of the county will finish June 6.

Among Ohio school districts, the Union Local School District participates in a program that allows some students to complete three days of missed classwork online, said Superintendent Doug Thoburn.

Five days are built into the Union Local school calendar to account for the first five days missed to inclimate weather, he said. After these five days, the sixth, seventh and eighth missed days are made up through online assignments.

"If it goes beyond that, we have to make up for those days in our schedule," Thoburn said.

The last day for students in the Union Local School District is scheduled for May 23.

In the Shadyside School District, Superintendent John Haswell says students will make up one day of instruction at Easter, and the rest at the end of the school year. The last day for students in Shadyside is scheduled for May 22.