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As Snow Days Pile Up, Options Explored to Make Up (or Not) Lost Time

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By guest blogger Alyssa Morones

In light of the latest round of widespread wintry weather, countless schools once again are losing precious instructional time to snow days. Given that many districts have already maxed out on their permitted limit of snow days, educators and policymakers are grappling with how—or whether, in some cases—to make up the time.

In Michigan, legislation has been introduced that would allow schools to make up missed days by adding minutes to school days already scheduled, reports the Associated PressMichigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a similar bill for the previous school year, but this latest bill would extend that option indefinitely.

State law allows districts up to six snow days before they have to start making up days. However, many schools are already pressing up against or have exceeded that limit. In Greenville, Mich., for example, schools have already had to cancel 12 and a half school days. Hamilton Community Schools have called off eight days.

The state board of education, however, issued a statement encouraging districts to add days onto their calendars, rather than add minutes onto existing days. In their recommendation, the state board said, "The majority of the studies for extended school year programs indicate that participation in extended year schools is associated with favorable achievement outcomes."

The board went on to say that, "Full replacement days offer every student the full extent of quality instruction that they missed when the school was closed. This method allows teachers to complete their full lesson plans with integrity and provide students with the appropriate depth of instruction they need to meet their instructional goals for every class."

Meanwhile, South Carolina is considering a snow-days bill that would allow local school boards to forgive up to five days of canceled classes due to bad weather. Action on the bill has been delayed, though, because of—you guessed it—another bout of bad weather.

Sen. John Courson, a Republican and the chairman of his chamber's education committee, said the decision is best left to local leaders. 

"It would be their option. They would make the call," said Sen. Courson in an interview with the Associated Press. "I just think they understand better than the legislature what their needs would be in making up these days."

Meanwhile, in line with a recent trend, a district in New Jersey is seeking an alternative solution for this latest round of snow days, opting for a virtual school day instead. In Pascack Valley Regional High School District, the students, all of whom were issued laptops by the district, are expected to complete their assignments online and communicate with teachers throughout the day, reports the Associated Press. The state education department will evaluate the day's success and determine if it will count as a normal school day.

As we note in a recent Education Week story, an increasing number of schools are looking to turn snow days into e-learning days to help avoid the disruption to the educational momentum and minimize the loss of instructional time.

A Tough Decision

Declaring a snow day is never an easy decision for districts. Further proof of this emerged this week, when Today Show weatherman Al Roker called out New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Twitter for the district's decision to keep schools open. Concerned about the weather conditions, Roker wondered why all schools near the area were closed but New York City schools remained open:

Later, when schools inevitably closed because of weather conditions, he tweeted:

"Our job is to make a decision that's always a tough decision and with always, by definition, imperfect information," said de Blasio at the Office of Emergency Management headquarters in Brooklyn, reports the Associated Press.

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