Jan 202018

Children dance during morning meeting at Lusher Charter School in December 2011. (UptownMessenger.com file photo)

After cancelling school for three days in a row, Lusher Charter School officials are trying to decide how to make up for the lost instructional time prior to crucial upcoming state and college-entrance testing.

After temperatures began to drop near freezing Tuesday, raising question about the safety of the roads, officials with the Orleans Parish School Board announced that all schools would be closing for Wednesday, and students were sent home early. The combination of icy roads and a lack of water pressure that led to a boil-water notice kept schools closed Thursday and Friday as well.

That loss of instructional time is posing a challenge for teachers, whose lesson plans are designed to prepare students for state testing in the spring and major college-entrance exams, said Lusher Charter School CEO Kathy Riedlinger.

“It is unheard of to close school three days in a row because of cold weather,” Riedlinger said at a meeting of the school’s governing board on Saturday morning.

The charter schools typically defer to OPSB on major weather-related cancellations, so that parents don’t have to deal with every school in the city making different decisions, Riedlinger said.

Parents are already asking how the missed days will be made up, however, Riedlinger said Lusher has yet to come to a decision on that — in part because the staff and administration hasn’t been together to coordinate.

“We come to that decision collaboratively,” Riedlinger said. “We have to be in the same room in order to do that.”

The issue is somewhat more pressing for the high school than at the elementary level, Riedlinger said, because of college exams and Advanced Placement classes, where the testing is administered according to national schedules. High school classes are taught in 90 minute blocks, so the loss of three concurrent days creates a significant hole in the class schedule, she said.

“One big concern is recouping instructional time before testing,” Riedlinger said. “It’s not as simple as adding days to the end of the year.”

High school principal Steven Corbett said he has already received emails from many students begging him not to use Mardi Gras break for makeup days. One email — signed by a group of students purporting to represent the entire high school student body — urged him to blame global warming for the loss of days and not take it away from them, Corbett said.

“I know they’re pretty concerned about their Mardi Gras break,” Corbett said to laughter from the school board.

There are some other planned development days that could be considered as makeup days as well, and the staff will continue discussing the issue at each campus as schedules return to normal, Riedlinger said. In the future, the school is already thinking of looking at strategies such as pre-made take-home packets for days when school has to be canceled because of weather.

The loss of days also disrupted enrichment activities planned around Martin Luther King Jr. day at each campus, the school principals said. The lower school is postponing its events until this coming week, said elementary principal Jan Rice.

The high school students and faculty had also planned a number of service projects around Martin Luther King Jr. Day, such as a food drive for Second Harvest, blanket drives for the homeless, building birdhouses to beautify the Freret campus, fundraisers for international disaster relief and more. After the school cancellation, the student groups are trying to figure out how to reschedule those activities, Corbett said. .

Saturday’s meeting of the Lusher Charter School board also included adoption of school policies relating to sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender or gender identity, and a discussion of how new state testing policies will affect the school’s performance scores. To read our live coverage of the meeting, see below:

Live Blog Lusher Charter School – Jan. 20 meeting

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