No make-up days planned
District 833 will not add days this school year to make up for weather-related closures last month.
But South Washington County Schools is eyeing an April date as a possible make-up day should the district have to cancel classes a sixth time due to snow or severe cold.
The District 833 School Board decided Feb. 6 not to add a day of classroom instruction to make up for time lost during the five cancelled days in January. Board members cited difficult scheduling issues as well as input from teachers and parents, among other factors.
Board member Katy McElwee-Stevens, of Newport, said she has talked with students, school staff and district residents. Many questioned why the district would try to add just a day. Also, she said, high school students were staying engaged with school work during the most recent pair of closures.
“Our staff has done an amazing job with the cards they’ve been dealt,” McElwee-Stevens said, “and I think they’ve done a really good job and I’m comfortable with it in their hands and the advice they’ve given me.”
District 833 closed schools Jan. 6, 7, 23, 27 and 28 because of cold weather. The district’s student calendar included four days more than the minimum number of hours the state requires for high school attendance. (Fewer hours are required for elementary students.) The fifth closure put the district below the required number of secondary school hours, though there is no penalty for not meeting the requirement. The Minnesota Department of Education gives local school boards the authority to decide whether to add days.
Superintendent Keith Jacobus said he wants to maximize learning opportunities, but he is comfortable with the number of student days the district has scheduled. Also, he said, teachers have shifted classroom plans to address the missed days last month.
“Folks aren’t as (far) behind as they really could be,” School Board Chair Ron Kath added.
Administrators had suggested three possible dates for make-up days, had the board preferred that: Presidents Day, Monday, Feb. 17; March 7,
which is the Friday before spring break; and April 18, which is Good Friday.
There are potential challenges with each day, such as the loss of staff development time, the availability of bus drivers, the timing of student assessments; the effect on high school second trimester finals; and conflicts with student college visits and family vacation plans.
“Ultimately, in the end I don’t think there really is a good day,” said Keith Ryskoski, assistant superintendent for secondary education.
Board members also briefly talked about holding school on a Saturday, or of spreading out time over a number of school days by starting earlier and ending later. Both ideas were dismissed because of a number of scheduling or logistical problems.
While the district is not adding time for the missed days last month, board members set April 18 as the likely day that would be added if school is closed a sixth time. That date poses the fewest scheduling challenges.
Administrators and the board would meet again to formalize that decision if there is another weather-related cancellation.
Kath said if there is yet another weather-related closure, he would like the district to be proactive and encourage teachers to give students work that can be done, if the closure is anticipated early enough.
Other Twin Cities area districts have added days to their calendar, such as District 834, which will hold school on President’s Day, but District 833 officials said the number of days scheduled over the course of the year varies by school system. Also, some schools have more staff development days and flexibility within their school calendar, said Dave Bernhardson, assistant superintendent for elementary education.