LPS to dismiss classes May 13 and 20

Undated_Students in the Lawton Public Schools will get two Fridays off before the school year ends because of cooperative spring weather and a change in the way the school year is calculated.

Classes will be dismissed on May 13 and May 20. School administrative offices and the Shoemaker Education Center will also be closed those days.

A year ago, the Oklahoma Legislature changed the definition of a school year from a minimum of 180 days of instruction to its equivalent, 1,080 hours. The change was made to give school districts flexibility in making up time lost to inclement weather and other emergencies.

The Lawton Public Schools took advantage of this change last summer by increasing instruction by 15 minutes per day, effective this school year. The extra minutes accumulated into a cushion of several reserve days that came in handy during consecutive snowstorms and frigid temperatures that forced cancellation of classes Feb. 1-4, then again on Feb. 9-10.

Previously, Lawton's school calendar had 2-3 school days built into it as a safeguard for bad weather – and that sometimes wasn't enough. In 2007, LPS was forced to hold classes on two consecutive Saturdays in March to make up instructional time lost to a series of severe winter storms.

The Lawton Board of Education approved the current school calendar before legislators approved the new law, so two reserve days were already programmed, in addition to the time accrued because of the longer school days. As it turned out, the reserve days weren't needed, prompting district officials to make the decision to use them as two extra days off in May.

This means the last day of the school year for students will stay Thursday, May 26, with the next day designated as a parent-teacher conference day. Keeping the end of the school year the same avoids a potential disruption of graduation plans and vacations that were built around the approved calendar.

Because the extra flexibility given by the new law has shown the programming of reserve days is unnecessary, the 2011-2012 does not include any. Instead, time lost will be made up from the cushion of time created by the longer school day.