By Steven Hoffman
This is superintendent David Woods’ first winter helming the Oxford Area School District, and the weather has obviously presented significant challenges since it started snowing in December and hasn’t really stopped for long since. There have already been ten snow days for Oxford students.
The district has tacked on make-up days to the end of the school year and scheduled others during planned days off. Reworking the school calendar is only one part of the story for school districts this winter.
Woods said that everybody from the teachers to the custodial maintenance staff to the bus drivers have done their part to limit the weather’s impact on students.
“I’m worried most about the wear and tear that this winter has had on a lot of our staff,” Woods said. “The custodial maintenance staff has been going above and beyond to remove the snow and keep everything safe for students.”
While Woods is confident that the maintenance staff can continue to meet the challenges that this winter brings, he is concerned about the dwindling salt supply. The district is in the same boat as everyone else in this regard.
The superintendent added that the bus drivers have dealt well with the weather conditions, and the transportation department administration has come in early on some mornings to make sure that the buses are ready to go.
The winter weather has been a factor in the classroom, too, but Woods said that the professional staff has done everything necessary, including re-teaching some material, to make sure that the educational program isn’t being hampered by the cancellations.
Woods said that, despite the large number of snow days so far, he isn’t too worried about the impact that the disruptions will have on standardized test results.
What could potentially have a bigger impact, he said, is the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s decision to move the PSSA tests forward a month. He said that the Department of Education made this decision in part because of changes that were made to how schools are evaluated. There is a teacher evaluation component that affects a school’s overall performance, so the tests were moved forward. Woods said that he didn’t agree with scheduling testing a month earlier because it doesn’t help students.
“It’s like the tail wagging the dog,” he said.
In other business at the meeting, the board discussed the draft school calendar for the 2014-15 school year. District officials are looking to find ways to reserve days in the schedule that can be utilized for make-up days, if necessary.
“We’re hoping that we don’t experience 9 or 10 days off next winter as we have this winter,” Woods said.