Morgan holds Saturday classes

All school districts in the area are utilizing every option to make up for the more than 10 school days missed because of weather, but a rare move comes out of Morgan Local Schools, where students have been attending Saturday school to make up for lost instructional time.

By Tuesday, Morgan Local had racked up 15 missed school days, but class on the weekend is not the only option the district resorts to. It also uses the state-mandated blizzard bag option and utilizes days that would normally be scheduled off for holidays and for other events.

The Saturday school policy in place at Morgan Local Schools has been around for eight years, and though unconventional, is around to make sure students are home in the summer and ready for testing.

“We feel the Saturday school is effective because students are much more focused and willing to come in then than they would be in June,” said Lori Snyder-Lowe, superintendent of Morgan Local. “We want kids in school as much as possible before testing in the spring.”

Though students might not enjoy being in school on a few select Saturdays, Snyder-Lowe feels it makes it all worth it in the end.

“In the summer, students have jobs, families have vacation times scheduled, and it’s difficult to get them in school,” she said.

The district has scheduled three Saturday school days so far, with one day in February canceled for bad weather. For now, Snyder-Lowe said the district will just wait and see what else it can do to keep students out of school far into June.

“It has been very positive. We’ve been doing this for eight years, as well as adding time on the day and going on holidays,” she said. “It’s fairly ingrained that it’s an expectation. Our community is supportive of the idea that they need all that time we can get.”

Morgan Local has also used the three designated blizzard bag days allowed by the state, where teachers make up either take-home or online packets of instructional material and homework for students to complete on snow days.

This year, attendance at Saturday school has been about 80 percent, a rate Snyder-Lowe said is good for what they are trying to accomplish.

“I understand that it’s hard to make up the days, so I don’t mind a Saturday here or there. It helps for vacationing,” said Mandy Hook, whose children, a fourth grader and a freshman, attend Morgan Local.

Hook said for the most part, her two children understand that the Saturday school is there to help them.

“They’re ready to go in the morning and don’t give me any grief about it,” she said. “In life when you go to work you have to work different hours than what you’re accustomed to, and when the boss says you have to go, you have to go.”

Bobby White, a McConnelsville resident with several children in Morgan Local schools, is reminiscent of his own time in the district, where he went to school on Saturdays to make up for the days missed during the 1978 blizzard.

“I know my kids don’t like it, but I don’t really have a problem with it in general,” he said.

With children in sports, however, White said it can be inconvenient.

“There’s a basketball tournament on the day they scheduled the next Saturday school, and I wish that would not have happened,” he said. “I don’t put sports above education, but it is important to have extra-curriculars.”

Though it can be difficult to get out of bed on a Saturday, students can be just eager to get the school year over with.

“I just want to get the days made up, if that means going on Saturday,” said Lake Drake, 18, who is a senior at Morgan High School. “I graduate on May 23, so I want to graduate on time and get all these days out of the way. It’s really not that big of a deal.”

Though teachers, like anyone else, may not love the idea, some feel that the system works.

“No one likes to work on Saturday, but from a teacher’s perspective and a mother, we have to learn sometime,” said Amanda Pierce, a fifth grade teacher at Morgan West Elementary. “My problem with tacking them on to the end of the year is a lot of times students shut down when the weather gets too nice.”

In Washington County, most schools have resorted to many other options, with everything from just adding days onto the summer to using spring break days and other holidays.

As an example, Fort Frye, which by Tuesday was using its 14th snow day, put students in class on President’s Day and a day they would have been off for parent/teacher conferences.

Superintendent Stephanie Starcher said once school is back in session, the district will notify parents and students that March 28, normally a waiver day for teacher training, will now be a school day.

“And we’re just waiting to hear what the legislature plans to do for calamity days,” she said.

Legislators have been debating giving Ohio districts more excused days this school year.

Since Fort Frye started school fairly early, they will be adding the rest onto the summer. Starcher said the district chose not to utilize blizzard bags this year, but will be sending out a survey to staff and parents for next year.

“We felt with so many new administrators that we weren’t prepared for those yet,” Starcher said. “We wanted to survey the community and staff first.”

Districts like Belpre and Warren Local are two school systems in addition to Morgan that have used the blizzard bags, which are designed to suit both those with and without access to the Internet.