The Letcher County Public School System is one of four school districts in eastern Kentucky recently approved to allow students to have the option to attend school or complete assignments at home during “snowbound” days.
Snowbound days have been approved for Letcher, Powell, Wolfe and Owsley counties. Each has missed at least 20 days in the last five years because of inclement weather. Letcher County has missed 25 days this school year and the last day of school for students is set for May 27.
The Letcher school district had snowbound days on March 18 as a trial run, and on March 28 after a light snowfall. Both days will be counted as regular school days. The district can implement up to 10 snowbound days each school year.
“It is a way that learning can continue on,” said Letcher County Public Schools Supt. Anna Craft. “Students are counted present if they show proof of learning through Internet lessons or the (instructional) packet or they show up at school. If they choose not to do their lessons and don’t turn in a packet, obviously they will be counted absent.”
Packets contain material for students to complete lessons and are similar to what students do on the Internet option.
“They may choose the Internet (option) and for some reason wet snow knocks the power out,” said Randy Bailey, district technology coordinator. “So if they come back to school, they still have seven days to go back and do it. We had to build flexibility into it. If for some reason they don’t have their packet or they lost their packet, they can pick that up when they get back to school.”
Students have seven instructional days to complete packets. Staff will have a few additional days to get everything graded.
“It’s a way for us to maintain instruction and keep learning taking place while we are out for bad weather,” said Kenneth Cornett, district pupil personnel director.
Students signed contracts stating what option they choose to do on designated snowbound days. They can change their option before next fall.
Craft said the snowbound days are designed to be implemented on days when snow has mostly melted.
“They weren’t designed initially for the worst of snow days because we were thinking roads would be open, parents can bring them and staff can get to schools,” said Craft. “Main roads are clear. Hollows are not. It’s those days that people criticize and say they could have had school.”
Craft said the snowbound days had not been implemented earlier in the school year because the district was awaiting approval from Gov. Steve Beshear.
“One thing to make the public aware, it had not been approved by the legislature and signed by the governor,” said Craft. “We wanted to wait and make sure that it was going to be approved.”
During the trial run on March 18, 303 students across the district attended school. On March 28 during the second snowbound day, 373 attended school.
Board Member Mike Harris said he had received some positive comments from parents.
“Not only did it give the kid instruction, but didn’t have to try to find a babysitter or miss work,” said Harris. “For the first time they liked it.”
Cassie Riffe, a senior at Letcher County Central High School who is the student representative on the school board, said she used snowbound days to review and to work on portfolios.
“In biology our snowbound days are review for the AP exam and that is something in the past you had to come after school or study on your own time,” said Riffe.