Something to think about...by Superintendent Westerberg
With all the school cancellations this year, school district administrators and school boards have been busy searching for the most effective way to make up the missed days. Minnesota law requires school districts to have a minimum of 165 days of school, which includes at least 1,020 hours of instruction for grades 7-12 and 985 hours for students in grades K-6. Time during lunch cannot be counted toward the total, but recess is included for elementary students.
After the polar vortex hit the state in late January, Governor Walz was asked if school districts not having the required days and hours of instruction would have state aid reduced. The Governor assured schools state funding wouldn’t be reduced due to school cancellations for extreme weather. The Governor’s comment caused many to believe he exempted schools from making up snow days. His comment then caused unintended confusion when local districts began informing the public of dates snow days would be made up.
If, and how, snow days are made up is a local school board decision. For many years in Big Lake, the first two snow days have been exempt from being made up and two make up days are designated on the school calendar as make days if needed. Therefore, extending the school year won’t happen until the fifth school cancellation. As of this writing, there have been four school cancellations so May 30 is still the last day of school.
Districts not having designated make up days in their calendar and having numerous snow days are finding themselves attending school deep into June or exempting numerous days from being made up, which would run afoul of the present law. Bills are presently making their way through the Capitol which, if signed into law, would allow school districts to count some of their snow days as days of instruction.
Last year the Legislature and Governor passed a law allowing schools to conduct a maximum of five e-learning days. This was an attempt to allow schools to use technology to continue learning at home when school is cancelled. The topic of e-learning days has become very popular and will be the topic of next month’s article.