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School officials in holding mode on snow day relief

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Lawmakers split on how to handle bill on missed school days

By Lisa King

Shelby County School officials say they are waiting to see what would happen with legislation proposed as a “snow day relief” bill for school districts.

“We’re just in a wait and see mode about what the final thing will say, because it’s already changed two or three times from what they said it would be,” said Dave Weedman, director of student services for Shelby County Public Schools.

The Democratic-led House has already approved a separate bill that would give school districts the power to eliminate up to 10 days of school because of bad weather without justifying the decision to the Kentucky Department of Education, but a bill passed by the Senate would put the authority to waive missed days under the commissioner of education, something that House Speaker Greg Stumbo (D-Prestonsburg) said is too complicated, adding that lawmakers from the House and Senate probably will have to negotiate their differences on the legislation.

Rep. Brad Montell (R-Shelbyville) said that although he voted for waiving the 10 days, upon later reflection, he thought the Senate bill would be better, because it requires school districts to try to work as hard as possible to make up as much time as they can to try to meet the state requirement of 1,062 hours of instruction time.

“I think it makes sense,” he said. “It [bill] wants to make sure that school districts have made every effort to provide those hours. They want them to go to the commission and say, ‘look, we have missed X number of days, and this is how we’re proposing to make up the time lost. Then the commissioner could grant them the days they need. So it’s just an attempt to have the school districts do the best they can to make up that time, rather than just have ten days granted regardless.”

Weedman said he and other school officials are waiting to see what will eventually happen with the legislation.

“We’ve speculated a lot about it; we’re waiting to see what the finished product will be,” he said. “We’re certainly looking at alternatives that are being offered to us. Today I read that the House was not happy about what came down from the Senate because they said it was too complicated. I don’t know what the final outcome is going to be, so we’re going to wait and see what comes out of it before we start speculating on what we’re going to do.”

Weedman said right now in Shelby County, the last day of school is June 6. “We’ve had thirteen snow days, and we took two days in February that we were supposed to be off, so that leaves us with eleven [missed days],” he said, adding that the last day for students was originally set for May 21.

Montell said there had been no decision yet when he left the Senate floor late Tuesday afternoon, but he thinks that could change later in the week.

“Here’s where we are, we have sent our bill to the senate, the senate has sent their bill to the house and it looks like what’s going to happen is that there will be a conference committee appointed by the house and the senate to sit down with those two bills and try to come to an agreement, maybe a compromise containing elements of both bills,” he said. “I think that will happen very soon, hopefully this week.”