A new law that allows school districts to measure their year based on hours rather than days is helping some districts make up time they missed because of the Jan. 28 ice storm.
This year, districts can choose whether to calculate their school year as a minimum of 180 days or 1,080 hours. The option is giving some school officials more flexibility as they devise ways to make up for as many as seven days students missed during the past two weeks. "I can’t think of a better year for that rule to go into effect,” said Mike Southall, superintendent of Mangum Public Schools. His district won’t have to make any schedule changes to make up for five days that were canceled after the ice storm. An extra 25 minutes that were added to each day from the beginning of the year are enough to make up for as many as 11 inclement weather days if needed, Southall said. He said many parents were relieved to hear their children wouldn’t have to make up time during spring break. Districts are using a variety of options to make up days. Some, like Mangum, which chose to measure in hours, were already ahead on instruction time when bad weather struck because their school days are longer than necessary. Others are choosing to add time to the day for the rest of the year, to convert conference days into student instruction days, or to add days to the end of the year, among other options. Duncan Public Schools has an additional 30 minutes built into each day that the district will use to absorb three days students missed because of the ice storm, said Superintendent Sherry Labyer. "It’s been such an uncertain year with weather,” Labyer said. "It has been a blessing to have the option of counting hours.” Shelly Hickman, public affairs director for the state Education Department, said state officials understand that the ice storm has been disastrous for some communities.