LIBERTY — In response to 11 days of school lost to winter weather last year, Liberty Public Schools came up with a pilot program that aims to keep children learning regardless of snow and ice that may impact school.
Flexible learning days, according to district documents, will allow district students to complete coursework at home if there are too many snow days in a year. The days, according to the district, will help ensure Liberty school district in-session days do not extend past Memorial Day.
With this new system, the first four snow days and the Chiefs Nation Parade cancellation are made up within the existing LPS calendar on Feb. 14, 17, April 10, May 21 and 22. The flexible learning day program begins on the next inclement weather day.
When this occurs, the district will inform families of buildings being closed. Using one-to-one technology, students will receive coursework from their principal or teacher to complete while at home.
“While there might be some classwork to be completed on a device,” Superintendent Jeremy Tucker said, “much of the day would be intended to have learners complete activities that are not on devices.”
With the new calendar counting system set up by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, these days would not need to be made up at the end of the school year.
“How snow days are made up sometimes looks different ... given that the Missouri law was revised and now only requires school districts to attend a minimum of 1,044 hours,” Communications Coordinator for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Mallory McGowin said. “There is no longer a day requirement in the revised law.”
Tucker told the Courier-Tribune that most LPS buildings have 1,100 in-school hours built into their calendars. This means that unless the district has more than a dozen snow days total, the district will not have to make up any other learning days. As snow days continue to accumulate, the district can subtract those hours from the excess already built in.
This program is not yet recognized by the state for attendance hours used to calculate state funding for districts, so the district may not receive as much funding as it would have if the district had an in-school day instead of a flexible learning day.
“Under current state law, to claim attendance hours outside a regular school day, the instruction must qualify for virtual education, which requires, among other things, course completion,” McGowin said. “Since that’s not what Liberty Public Schools’ flexible learning days are designed to do, no, LPS cannot claim attendance hours on flexible learning days.”
McGowin added that LPS had reached out to DESE inquiring about how attendance would be treated on flexible learning days and DESE answered the same way.
Since districts are not required to keep the state comprised of all programs, McGowin said she is unsure if other districts have similar practices. Tucker said he has seen similar models in other states and hopes in the long run flexible learning days will be counted in attendance hours, allocating state funds for those hours.
“It would look similar to online classes,” a hopeful Tucker said. “Either way, flexible learning days are a creative way for our students to continue learning from home.”