Speer: When schools are out of snow days

Yet again this week most every school district in Northeast Michigan was forced to cancel school due to winter weather. For some districts, like Alpena, there were two missed days of school this week.

When classes were canceled Friday in Alpena a bell should have gone off on everyone’s alarm clocks – the magical state limit of missed days officially was reached. After that point any other days of missed school will result in make-ups in the district. Additionally, individual schools also will need now to examine just how many hours each has been in session this school year, as some might fall short of the mandated minimum number. In those instances the hours will need made up as well.

This scenario is true for most of the school districts across the region.

Michigan law requires students to receive 1,098 hours of class each year, which translates to 170 school days (for the record, that number increases to 175 next school year). The Michigan Department of Education allows schools to miss up to six days each winter before their financial aid would be impacted. After six, and districts have to make up the classes.

Last year the state legislature passed a one-time only provision that allowed districts to extend the length of school days rather than adding days to the calendar for make-ups. Legislation to that effect is being considered again.

However, earlier this week Michigan Department of Education officials went on record saying that rather than extending hours to a day to make up for missed school days, they favored adding full days instead. In a press release board members said they unanimously agreed full replacement days “offered every student the full extent of quality instruction that they missed when school was closed.” The board left no doubt their preferred method of making up lost days, should districts be faced with that dilemma.

The argument against adding days is the added costs it would cost districts to do so. An extra day increases costs for things like busing, heating, lighting, etc.

Canceling school never is a decision made lightly by a district superintendent. Thus, you never will read criticism from this corner for any cancellation decision they have made.

And, faced with what the districts face now with possibly needing to make up days, I am sympathetic to arguments made both ways regarding school make-ups.

Ultimately, I agree with the state, however, and that is I favor full day make-ups for students rather than extending the length of a school day.

One approach seems rather legalistic, the other much more holistic.

For the sake of our students, I support the more holistic approach.

Bill Speer can be reached via email at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 354-3111 ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13. Read his blog, More BS?(Bill Speer) at www.thealpenanews.com.