State's Top Educator Speaks Out On "Snow Days" And I-STEP Change During NE Indiana Visit

By Jeff Neumeyer

February 21, 2014 Updated Feb 21, 2014 at 6:25 PM EDT

COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (21ALIVE) --- Indiana's state school superintendent says she's trying everything in her power to help students overcome the burden of mounting snow days and still be prepared for standardized testing set to happen next month.

During a visit to the area Friday, Glenda Ritz discussed pressing public school matters.

Coesse Elementary School near Columbia City was paid a visit on Friday by the state's top education official.

Ritz didn’t come to unveil some learning initiative; instead, she came to make a personal connection.

"Look for beauty wherever you are, and keep the memory of it with you."

That’s a line from a book the one-time school librarian read to third and fourth graders, who for much of January and February have been sitting at home rather than in a classroom.

State lawmaker Kathy Heuer, who also showed up as a guest reader, has empathy for teachers and families.

" Scheduling has been thrown off, basically what I've heard is they've had to start school this year, or this semester I should say, five different times," said Heuer, who represents Allen and Whitley Counties in the House.

Ritz insists her office is working to give schools as much flexibility as possible to make up snow days.

Some schools, she says, are opting to go on Saturdays or to go on holidays like Good Friday.

Others are petitioning to add time on to the regular school day to meet attendance requirements, while others are biting the bullet and choosing to extend the school year into June.

The window for conducting I-STEP + testing has also been extended to boost prep time for students who've been out of the loop of late.

“We actually have from March 3rd to the 21st of March to give that assessment, so that's like 13 days for only a three-day test," Ritz said.

The year-round school concept, or balanced calendar as it’s sometimes called, is slowly gaining in popularity.

Will this nasty winter cause that to take hold even more?

Whitley County Consolidated Schools is considering it.

“I think this year is so unusual that I wouldn't want to just react to a year like this, but we're going to look at how that will change our instruction," said WCCS Superintendent Patricia O’Connor.

State Superintendent Ritz says individual districts on their own need to decide whether to embrace the concept or say 'no thanks'.

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