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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

What a winter!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Bucket list - Most of the school cancellations this winter have been because of impassable roads. The county road crews were very busy making the roads passable as quickly as they could. In this photo, Secondary Roads employee Tim Preuss is seen pushing back the snow drifts on F Avenue, near the junction with C-66. Photo by Ron Flewelling.
Making up snow days a real problem for schools

Spring is just a few days away on the calendar, and with both of the state basketball tournaments completed, it's looking like maybe - just maybe - the long, long, winter of 2009-2010 has run its course.

The cold weather, ice, snow and wind have created a lot of postponements, cancellations, late openings and early closings for many area businesses and organizations, but the biggest headache has obviously been that of the area schools.

The schools are required by the state to provide 180 days of classes per school year for their students, and that get gets rather tricky if a winter like this one comes along.

Scheduling certain days as "snow make-up days" is usually part of a school's Master Calendar, but what happens when all those dates get used?

One option for schools is to have classes go beyond the originally scheduled "last day of classes." Although there is no state requirement to end classes by a certain date, going beyond June 1 is not a popular choice of area schools, because of family vacations, students having summer jobs, and youth and prep baseball and softball practices and games.

Another option which schools have considered is having a longer school day by 30 minutes or an hour. Cherokee School Superintendent Dr. John Chalstrom says that adding a minimum of 30 minutes a day to student schedules would take 11 days to make up for one missed day.

Another option would be having Saturday classes, but that, too, would not be very popular with students, school staff or families.

As of Feb. 22, the River Valley School District had missed nine days of school due to inclement weather, and have had one or two more since then. The makeup schedule at RV included having school on February 15, which was originally a day off for President's Day; March 17, originally a teacher conference comp. day; March 26, originally a teacher conference comp. day; and April 5, originally a Spring Vacation day. Old Man Winter threw a clinker into the plan to have class on Feb. 15, though, as he reared his ugly head again.

Five other student makeup days will be tacked on to the end of the year--May 24--May 28. At the present time, the last day of classes for students will be May 28. Any additional missed days will be made up starting Tuesday, June 1.

River Valley Superintendent of Schools Julie DeStigter said, "We have considered all options for makeup days, and this seems to be the best solution. Due to student job conflicts and school activities, Saturdays were not included as makeup days for students."

At this time, the last day for seniors at River Valley High School will be May 14, with graduation ceremonies on Sunday, May 16, as originally scheduled.

In past years, said DeStigter, the school has used 2-5 snow make-up days, and it has been over 10 years since they have had this many days to make up for snow cancellations. The original last day for school was to be May 21 for all students except seniors. Seniors will still have their last day on May 14. They will have made up three snow days.

DeStigter said the RV Master Contract determines unpaid holidays such as President's Day, Good Friday and the Monday following Easter, but the Teacher's Association agreed to waive those holidays this year and have them be used as makeup days. Any additional days that will be needed for snow makeup will be added to the end of the year.

"An additional problem occurs when the calendar runs past Memorial Day," said DeStigter. "The support staff contract allows for the holiday of Memorial Day to be a paid holiday if the school day calendar extends beyond that date. Due to a final makeup day being scheduled for the day after Memorial Day, the district will need to pay support staff for that holiday, even though it is unbudgeted. Other concerns include custodial staff not having enough time in the summer to do the intensive cleaning and floor refinishing that is required to keep a building looking great. We will have approximately two weeks of summer work time cut out of the schedule due to snow makeup days. Athletic camps held in our gym during the summer leave a short window of time for gym floor refinishing and curing. Snow makeup days can complicate this."

Aurelia students have missed seven days, with five late starts and two early dismissals. Superintendent Lynn Evans said that their last day of school for students is now May 28, with a last day of June 1 for teachers.

"We really want to avoid going into June with students if we can

help it, so we are already looking to alter plans in the event we have

another snow day," explained Evans. " Lengthening the school day is an option. Using a Saturday(s), a day around Easter break, or the March break will also be looked at hard. We have started the process of getting some input from staff.

"At the northern end of the district, where it gets fairly hilly and the roads wind around, this creates problems not only with the roads drifting shut, but also with the driver not being able to see what is coming around the corner or just over the hill. The wind is a major factor. Any substantial wind is going to cause drifting."

Evans also said one major factor he considers when making the decision whether or not to call off school is the inexperience of young students who drive themselves to school.

The Cherokee School District students have missed six days of school this year due to weather conditions, the most since they also missed six days in the 2000-2001 school year. The District has also had five late starts and one early dismissal.

The District will use three days during teachers' Personal Development to make up the days. School policy states that Spring Break time cannot be used as make up time because many families plan vacations for that week.The last day for students is now May 27.

The Cherokee School Board has discussed alternatives, including adding minutes to the school day, going into June, and Saturday classes.

The Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn administration did not respond to our inquiries regarding their snow cancellations and make-up plans.

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