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Snowy States Scrambling To Make Up for Lost Time

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As they dig out from weeks of ice and snow and await still more, school administrators in states hit hard by this winter's storms are looking to their lawmakers for help in dealing with state school-year mandates.

In some areas, schools have already been closed for considerably more than the allowable number of snow days. Many face the possible loss of state aid if they are unable to be open for the required number of days. (See Education Week, Feb. 9, 1994.)

Lawmakers in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania have proposed bills offering relief to hard-pressed school officials.

In Kentucky, which has experienced one of the harshest winters in recent memory, state law requires districts to provide 175 instructional days per school year.

The typical district, said Jim Parks, a spokesman for the state education department, has already missed 10 to 12 days.

"Only about a half dozen are up there in the 'red zone''' of 20 or more days, said Mr. Parks.

After 20 missed days, districts can appeal to the state board of education to waive make-up days.

In addition, the Senate education committee has reported out a bill that would allow districts that have missed at least 10 days of school due to the weather to extend the school day for 72 minutes. Schools would be allowed only five weeks of extended days.

Seeking a Pardon

Ohio, where some districts have racked up as many as 28 snow days, is also considering emergency legislation.

A bill slated to be considered by the Ohio House this week would allow districts to: add an hour to each school day; delay the school day up to two hours without counting the day as a missed day; and use a sliding scale to calculate make-up days, with no make-up for up to seven missed days and six make-up days for 17 or more missed days.

In other states, the governor can "forgive'' districts for missed days.

In North Dakota, for example, Gov. Edward T. Schafer has received more than 120 requests from districts seeking such pardons.

By law, the Governor can forgive districts that miss up to five days. This year, Mr. Schafer's office is using a formula that drops one make-up day for districts that have missed three and four days, and two from those that have missed five.

In addition, seven North Dakota districts so far have needed special consideration because they have missed more than five days. The Governor will hand down a decision in those cases this week, a spokesman said.

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