EIC Column: snow days added back to original calendar


Photo by Emma Kostroski-Polucha

Snow days to be made up before the end of the school year, not after.

Emma Kostroski-Polucha, Print Editor-in-Chief

The Polar Vortex this winter has caused many schools to close down due to the weather conditions. The Stillwater district had room in its calendar for one snow day, but due to the anomaly of days that the schools had to shut down, there is a discussion on which days should be added back to make up for those days, or if those days should be made up at all.

It is necessary for schools to make up those snow days since the performance of student sits on the line. Missing a significant amount of days can make a student perform less than their usual standard since there has been less material that has been reviewed with them. Since most of the bigger tests, ACTs, AP, and MCAs happen towards the end of the year in April and May, making up school days to happen before then in order to cover the curriculum fully. This means that adding on days at the end of the school year would prove pointless and overall a hassle for everyone involved.

School Board Decisions

Although many school districts have a built-in number of “inclement weather make-up days”, the unexpectedly brutal snowstorms of the past few weeks have exceeded the pre-allocated snow days. In the coming weeks, school boards and school districts in various states across the Midwest will be meeting to consider how best to address this problem.

At its Feb. 7 meeting, the Stillwater school board was expected to determine if days will be added to the calendar to make up for the unexpected break from school on Jan. 28-31. Ultimately, they made a decision to add back President’s Day, which had previously been a school holiday.

“We understand this is short notice for families and we apologize for the inconvenience, ” Stillwater Area Public Schools said in a bulletin. “If your middle school or high school student will not be in attendance on Feb. 18 we just ask that you enter it as an absence in Skyward. Please note, this decision was made prior to the Feb. 8 snow day, so additional action may be required in the future. We encourage you to contact local legislators to encourage them to waive the instruction hour requirements this year to avoid additional makeup days.”

The school board will be asked to vote to recoup instructional hours for the late start on Feb. 11. Should there be an additional snow/cold day, the makeup date would be on April 19, for secondary students and staff only.

Legislative Action

Although students and staff are concerned about cutting into spring break, the best decision to make up snow days would be to take back holidays, considering that it is much easier to  communicate to families and had it been a regular week, there would have been school anyway so students would not have to take time off of work or plan for other difficulties that could arise.

When do you think Stillwater should have to make up school days?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

After missing four days of school due to the extreme cold, the district now falls below the state-required student contact hours for the year. Based on the number of minutes in each student day, middle school and high school students need to attend school 168 days within the current calendar to meet the requirement. The district is now at 167 days, with the inclusion of President’s Day.

While the Governor says districts will not be punished for closing schools, legislation is in place that requires a minimum number of student contact hours each year. The Legislature would need to make special dispensation to waive the minimum hour requirement, which to date, has not been done. A spokesperson for Gov. Tim Walz told the Pioneer Press that school districts have been assured they “will not be penalized for keeping their students safe.” However, with the sheer amount of days that students have missed, it is required for them to try to make up those days, even with the pardon.

Proposed Solutions to Snow Days

The options that school districts have thus far proposed to make up the missed days include:

Adding Days to the End of the Year 

Various school districts are planning to make up the missed days by extending the last day of school in June past its planned date. This would mean that for the Stillwater district the end date would be between June 3 and 7.

However, the senior graduation date cannot be moved or changed. Therefore if there were to be school scheduled after graduation, it would only be for Kindergarten through 11th grade. The other issue with adding days at the end of the year would be that some students have planned things around the end of the year so there would likely be a significant amount of students missing from those days unless there were to be finals on those days. Accordingly, adding days to the end of the year would simply be counterproductive.

Cancelling Planned Holidays

In Minnesota, several school districts have already added back President’s Day back to their calendar. There has also been a discussion of taking back Good Friday, which is another day the district originally had off to make up for the snow day in Feb.

However, some families and staff members created plans that may conflict with the addition of an originally planned day off, which corresponds to the issue of attendance once more, but using original days off of school during the school year and within a normally planned school week would make it easier for students to attend.

Looking for Help from State Legislature

Some districts, however, are looking to their state departments of education and requesting that the minimum classroom days requirement be lifted in acknowledgement of this year’s extremely disruptive weather. Even if the Legislature agrees to pardon, districts should still try to make up for those days that the students missed out on learning.

This winter has proven to be brutal, not only in temperatures and snowfall, but in the terms of the headaches school districts are facing. The solutions to missed school days this year will certainly set precedence for future winters. However, districts should plan for the upcoming years and take this year as an example to add room for more possible snow days, even if they are not needed in the end.