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A worker drives a snow blower on the sidewalks between the New Richmond High School and Hillside Elementary School on Thursday, Jan. 30, after another snow storm hit the area early that morning. (Photos by Jordan Willi)

Area schools reschedule days lost to cold weather

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By Jordan Willi, Sarah Young and Dave Newman 

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With temperatures reaching new lows throughout the month of January, school districts in the area closed schools multiple times due to the cold weather to ensure the safety of students.

With a total of four days lost to cold weather so far this school year, the New Richmond School District Board of Education was forced to address the the topic of make-up days at its Jan. 28 work session meeting.

“We need to make up one student-contact day, so the school board decided to use the teacher inservice day that the students originally had off on Feb. 17 as our make-up day,” said New Richmond School District Superintendent Jeff Moberg. “We also looked at the students’ break in March, but the 17th made more sense right now. Plus, we might need to make up another day or so before the end of the year, so it is good to keep a few days open.”

According to Moberg, the number of school days the district has had to cancel so far this year is not the norm during the school year. Last year, the district closed school just four times, which equals the number of days canceled already this year.

“This is not typical at all for us,” Moberg said. “Usually we have two to three days a year that we have to cancel, but this year is definitely an anomaly.”

Moberg also explained that even though students are on track to meet the state’s required minimum of minutes of classroom instruction, the extra school day the school board added on Feb. 17, is needed to fulfill the school’s minimum number of contact days with the students, which is set by the state.

“Every year, you have to meet both the state’s minutes standard and contact days standards,” Moberg said. “To meet the number of contact days we need, you can’t just add minutes throughout the rest of the school year. Even if we could get another eight hours in before the end of the year, that wouldn’t work to fulfill the number of contact days we need.”

Taking away the teacher's inservice day on Feb. 17 means the teachers will have to make up those training sessions that were scheduled for that day.

If the school district decides to cancel another day of school, Moberg said the board will look at make-up days around the Easter holiday and at the end of the year where there is a built in make-up day on June 9.

“If we have to use that day at the end of the year, it could end up disrupting summer school, students’ time with their families and a lot of other things,” Moberg said.

St. Croix Central

So far this school year, St. Croix Central students have missed five days, according to superintendent Tim Widiker. A cushion of three days was built into the school year schedule. So far, students will have to make up two days.

At a special meeting of the school board learning committee Monday night, board members decided to use Friday, Feb. 21 and Friday, June 6 as make-up days. This option adds one extra day to the end of the school year, which was originally scheduled to end Thursday, June 5. June 6 will be a half-day for students, with professional development for staff that afternoon. Feb. 21 had been scheduled as an off-day for students.

“I’m trying to think positive thoughts at this point,” Widiker said. “If the days get excessive, there is an option for a waiver from the Department of Public Instruction. Right now, they are not considering any waivers. If we have to cancel school because of inclement weather between now and June 6, we will have to make up each day missed.”

The Department of Public Instructions requires a minimum of 175 days of school per school year. To meet that requirement, SCC must make up the two days.

The DPI also requires a set number of hours of instruction per grade, but the district still meets those requirements due to shorter recesses, lunch times and longer school days implemented this year.

Calling off school affected finals week for students at the high school.

“Flexibility is the key in today’s educational setting,” SCC High School principal Glenn Webb said. “We were able to have a fairly smooth finals week; it just lasted twice as long as normal. In the end, we finalized tests and ended our semester Wednesday, Jan. 29, instead of last Friday, Jan. 24.”

The days that need to be made up has not affected the start date of Monday, June 9, for summer school, Widiker said. However, scheduling events has been somewhat of a headache due to the missed days.

“Our Activities Director, Jeremy Kerg, has been very flexible and has done a great job so far in rescheduling events,” Widiker said. “Each cancelled activity has a domino effect on all the other upcoming activities. It is certainly a challenge in that regard.”

Last year SCC students had to make up one day after missing four days of school due to inclement weather.

Somerset

The Somerset School District is exploring all its options concerning snow days, knowing that the biggest traditional months for snow days still lie ahead.

With five inclement weather days already used this winter, the Somerset School District is two beyond the three days it had scheduled for this winter. The school district added eight minutes to each school day this year to give it three inclement weather days. District administrator Randy Rosburg said that move was made because there were three inclement weather days last year. Previously, the district had planned for one or two snow days each year.

This leaves the Somerset with two days already to make up. Rosburg said the district looked at all possibilities, including the spring break week, the Good Friday holiday and early release days. Rosburg said the spring break and Good Friday ideas were scrapped because many families already have plans for those days. He said the goal is to not touch the early release days, because these are valuable days to get information out to teachers and for teachers to get work done.

Rosburg said the greatest likelihood is that the school days will be added on at the end of the school year, though this is still in the discussion stages. It was scheduled to be a topic for the school board’s teaching and learning committee at its meeting on Monday. It will also be discussed at the next full meeting of the school board on Feb. 17.

Because of the snow days seems to be on the increase, Rosburg said there is also discussion of adding three more minutes to each school day next year. He said that could give the district enough minutes to cover for five inclement weather days.

Another possibility is scheduling 182 days in the school year, instead of the traditional 180. If there aren’t as many snow days, in that instance, there would be the possibility that the students wouldn’t have to attend the final day or two of the school year.

Rosburg said the state requires that students attend class for 175 days, but it is a common practice to schedule 180 student days for each school year.

The Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators has also contacted State Superintendent Tony Evers at the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction to see if school districts can get any relief from the high number of snow days this year.

“He was open to discussion,” Rosburg said.

 
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Jordan Willi
Jordan Willi is a reporter for the New Richmond News. Previously, he worked as a sports reporter at the Worthington Daily Globe in Worthington, Minnesota. He also interned at the Hudson Star Obeserver for two summers and contributed to the Bison Illustrated sports magazine at North Dakota State University.
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