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State Senate OKs bill offering snow days relief

By BRUCE SCHREINER Associated Press

FRANKFORT - The Kentucky Senate offered its approach Monday to assisting schools struggling with a mounting number of missed days because of the harsh winter.

Senators sent their version to the House on a 38-0 vote. It coincided with another day of wintry weather that forced some school districts to call off classes yet again. Long bouts of snow and ice have forced some districts to miss more than 30 instructional days this winter.

Those recurrent absences have school employees and parents wondering how long the school year might be extended to make up for lost time. That could conflict with summer vacations, sports tournaments and continuing education plans by teachers.

Under the Senate's plan, local school boards could submit revised calendars to the state education commissioner to adjust for lost instructional time. Changes could include extending school days or having students in session on days off. School days could not exceed seven instructional hours. If districts are still struggling to make up all lost time, school boards could request a state waiver from the required 1,062 instructional hours in a school year.

The Senate attached those provisions to a House bill and then passed it. The measure next returns to the House.

The House passed its own bill last week that would allow districts to have up to 10 missed instructional days waived.

Leaders in both chambers are trying to get a final bill to Gov. Steve Beshear as soon as possible to let districts adjust their schedules.

Lawmakers say they have been hearing from anxious school administrators wondering what approach the General Assembly will take.

Republican Sen. David Givens said expectations for student results are unchanged, despite the chronic closures in some districts.

"Nowhere in the bill does it say we're going to lower the standards," said Givens, a key player in crafting the Senate's version. "Nowhere in the bill does it say that we're going to put an asterisk on the assessment results for this school year."

Other senators said the rash of snow days could have been eased if some districts didn't take so many days off when the weather is much better.

Republican Sen. Julie Denton of Louisville said some districts need a more reasonable approach to calling off school.

"There are school districts that at the very hint that there might be snow in the region call off school the day before," she said. "Or if the snow's supposed to start at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, they call a half day, and we may or may not even get snow."

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