Snow and cold days stir debate


Students have spent their winter thawing out from below-zero temperatures and digging out from huge snowfalls resulting in eight cancelled school days.

“Every snow day brings a unique set of circumstances,” Utica Community Schools Director of School-Community Relations Tim McAvoy said. “We have crews on the roads in the early morning hours looking at conditions, plowing school parking lots and monitoring main and subdivision roads. We try to make the call as soon as possible.”

Michigan law requires districts to provide at least 170 days and 1,098 hours of pupil instruction to qualify for funding. Districts are allowed up to six cancelled days due to any inclement weather, power outages or other unusual circumstances. As of right now, Utica Community Schools (UCS) cancelled a total of eight days.

State lawmakers recently started strategizing how districts can make up lost instruction time due to this winter’s record-breaking weather.

Excessive snow days last school year led lawmakers to approve a law permitting schools to extend the length of their school days to make up hours without having to extend their school calendars later into June.

That law, however, specifically applied to the 2012-2013 school year, leaving that flexibility unavailable to school districts for this year.

UCS says they haven’t yet determined how they plan to make up hours and is waiting for a call-to action from the government.

“Usually, a decision is made later in the spring when we know the total amount of time missed,” Principal Nanette Chesney said.

Recently, Michigan Representative, Phil Potvin looks to introduce a bill granting districts the same ability as last year, extending school days to make up lost time. He hopes to do so more permanently, giving school districts the flexibility they need for the future in making up missed class time.

“I rather add hours on to school days then at the end of the year,” senior Jenna Skerbe said. “I feel like it’s more worth it then extending the school year further into June.”

With many winter days still to come, Michigan Legislature works on providing Michigan school districts an easy fix for regaining the required hours of instruction.

“I don’t remember this many snow days in my entire career,” Chesney said. “It has been difficult for all of us to have a routine when our school days keep getting interrupted. However, we have successfully completed our exams and moved on to second semester.”