There’s Snow End in Sight

In the wake of such a snowy winter, some have been enjoying the school-free days for outdoor activities. Others have been enjoying some well-deserved time away from school. However, ORCSD is feeling the weight of lost time, and the district’s choice of re-appropriating March 24th and May 26th teacher workshops to school days show that ORCSD is getting close to the minimum 990-hour requirement.

Generally, as cancellations due to inclement weather increase, some students may believe that the last day of school, and subsequently graduation, are pushed back even further. However, the truth of New Hampshire policy is that it would still take nearly 7 additional school closings due to inclement weather to affect the minimum requirements ORHS must satisfy in order to finish the school year. However, when it comes down to content, courses, and teachers, that is up to the ORCSD School Board to decide when the end of school should be. At this point, the graduation date for seniors has been set for June 9th, and June 26th for non-seniors. You can explore the hours that make up the 2016-2017 school year in the infographic below.

2016-2017 School Year Overview

Where does this information come from? Well, ORCSD chooses to satisfy the minimum number of school hours rather than the number of days. Looking at the current 2016-2017 school year, there are 1,092 planned hours of instructional time. Given that the minimum requirement for most high school students is 990 hours, ORHS had a total of 102 “buffer” hours before New Hampshire law requires any make-up. For seniors, this minimum is reduced by 30 hours to 960.

Doing the math, June 9th and June 26th both fit well above each NH State Law requirement. With 6 hours of instructional time lost for each of our 7 snow days and 2 hours lost for each of our 4 delays, the current number of hours completed by the end of school will be 1,042. For seniors, the current number of hours by graduation will be 976 hours.

How come? According to administrators Mike McCann and Todd Allen, ORHS strives to satisfy and exceed the minimum instructional hours required by the state of New Hampshire, which is 990 in total, according to a section of New Hampshire law, which goes by the rather blunt name of “CHAPTER ED 300: ADMINISTRATION OF MINIMUM STANDARDS IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS”, which states in Section 306.18, (a), (6), that high schools are required “at least 990 hours of instructional time.” According to Todd Allen, ORHS exceeds this requirement with a total of 178 six-hour school days, which amounts to 1,068 hours of instructional time. Accounting for finals and midterm exams, this number is reduced to 1,044 hours.

As for seniors, the hours requirement is defined by the same New Hampshire law “CHAPTER ED 306”. The instructional-hour requirement for seniors is lowered by exactly “… by no more than 5 days or 30 hours of instruction, whichever is less.” Since ORHS uses the minimum requirement of 990 hours, the requirement for seniors is reduced to 960 at ORHS, which is what decides the graduation date.

However, should some bizarre inclement weather cancel over 11 additional days of school, all students can rest easy knowing that school days will not go past June 30th. Since contracts only require teachers to teach up until June 30th, the situation would be, as put by Todd Allen, “you can’t have school without teachers.” If ORHS lost enough hours to warrant adding extra days past June 30th, this means that extra days would have to be added during non-planned times, such as weekends or vacations.

One example of added time is the current choice by ORCSD to convert the March 24th and May 26th teacher workshop days into full school days. Effectively, these days will add 12 hours to total number of planned hours. This is permissible due to another clause in New Hampshire law, Ed 306.18 (a) (4), which allows 30 of 60 hours of teacher workshop and planning time to be converted to normal school days.

Consequently, ORCSD has plenty of other methods for making up instructional hours, should extreme circumstance of excessive cancellations occur. According to Mike McCann, this has manifested itself in a variety of ways in the past, ranging from a school day on Saturday to a day of volunteering.

Additionally, statewide emergencies and events have also caused the New Hampshire Commissioner of Education to grant an exemption for lost hours, such as a 2006 Mother’s Day flood. If most New Hampshire schools found a lack of hours to satisfy the requirement, it would be likely that an exception would be made.

Despite all this, the fact is that the ORCSD School Board and ORHS administration is acting to find ways to ensure that these New Hampshire requirements are met. Additionally, students can rest easy knowing that there will be no surprises, such as an entire lost spring vacation or school time in August.

Written by Tim Bartos MOR Logo