Dangerous cold, future snow, could mean a longer school year
By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Local school districts have seen a record number of school closings this year, due to the severe cold which dropped from the Arctic. With temperatures in the minus 20 degree area, sometimes minus 30 degrees, and wind chills approaching minus 50 degrees, it’s been determined that it’s just too dangerous for children, and adults, to be outdoors for any length of time.
The Minnesota Department of Education has deemed schools must be in session a minimum of 165 days a year. When schedules are created by administrations and voted on by the Board of Education for the upcoming school year, “snow days” are always considered. But usually not four snow days.
Each area school district is looking at doing something different to make up for the time off.
Superintendent Eric Williams said that of the 168 days his students are expected to attend classes, four of those days have been used as “snow days.” Holdingford has run out of days to set aside for weather-related issues.
Four days were approved by the Holdingford School Board in June 2013 for the 2013-14 school year to make up for any necessary time off. Students in Holdingford attended school Jan. 20 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day) and will attend Feb. 14, April 21 and May 30, too.
Williams said that if another day of school has to be cancelled, the calendar committee will make a recommendation to the School Board after seeking input from families and staff.
Steve Jones, the superintendent of schools in Little Falls, said he has closed his schools twice this season: Jan. 6 and Jan. 27. On two other days, he announced a two-hour late start.
Little Falls is scheduled to be in session for 171 days each year. The school built in three snow days for the year, so it has one more to go.
Students will be attending school Monday, Feb. 17. The day was built into the district’s original calendar as a make-up day if there was a second snow day. If a third one occurs, it is also built into the calendar as a make-up day Monday, March 24.
If the weather pattern continues to make it necessary to close schools for several more days, Jones said he has no set game plan and nothing has been even tentatively planned.
The normal student contact year in Pierz is 172 days and Supt. George Weber said the teachers’ contract reads that the second missed snow day will be made up.
“We have had many two-hour late starts, but only two full days missed,” he said. “So we have one make-up day for sure up to this point.”
Weber said he is working on when the best make-up day will be and that the decision will be made very soon.
“Our goal is to avoid having to bring students back in June,” he said. “For the most part, if we can make up a day during the school year, it is generally a more productive learning day than coming back in June.”
During the spring of 2013, there were snow days in late April when there was nothing left in the schedule to make up. Weber is hoping February and March will not bring heavy snows.
Supt. Chuck Arns said he has closed the Pillager Schools four times this year.
“Assuming the School Board is going to choose to make them up, we will add them in June as stipulated in the teachers’ contract,” he said.
Pillager has scheduled 173 days of school for students and Arns said that if the district has to close for more days, the administration will continue to add them on to the June calendar.
“I hope we can stay out of July,” he said.
Swanville has scheduled 172 days of school for the 2013-14 school year. Of those, four have been used as snow days and one was a late start.
“We are not going to make up the day the governor (Mark Dayton) called off,” said Supt. Gene Harthan. “As of now, the plans for the two days missed this past week are to make those up Monday, Feb. 17 (President’s Day) which we had scheduled as a teacher inservice day, and Thursday, April 17, (Easter Thursday).”
Harthan said if there any more days off due to the weather, they will be added on to the end of the year, starting with May 27 as the School Board adopted.
“If we have a lot more snow days, we may reconsider. Last year, we ended up missing six days due to snow and/or cold and we added two days to the end of the year,” he said.