Record-breaking snow fall this winter has left many school administrators with the difficult task of finding ways to make-up snow days.
To address this, Wisconsin lawmakers are drafting a bill that could make things easier for some districts.
Many schools across the region have been impacted by weather-related cancellations. A few weeks ago the Governor in Minnesota forgave some snow days, easing the burden on school districts. Wisconsin’s Governor does not have that authority but the legislature does.
A new bill being proposed could mean some districts won’t have to make up snow days at all. Severe winter weather this season has forced an excessive amount of delays and snow days for many area school districts.
“This has certainly been an unprecedented year for snow for icy roads for brutally cold weather and it’s had a real impact on our operation,” said Dr. Mary Ann Hardebeck, Superintendent for the Eau Claire Area School District.
Dr. Hardebeck said the Eau Claire Area School District typically sees two to three snow days a year but this year, that number spiked to 10, leaving officials with the burden of figuring out how to make-up the lost instructional time.
“We will be taking to the board on Monday a new proposal to make up additional days. We have three options- add minutes to the day, take days from the spring break, or add days to the end of the school year.”
Dr. Hardebeck said these are tough decisions for the board to make. She hopes they can come up with the best option for students and families in the district.
Wisconsin law used to call for 180 days of instruction but now the school year instructional requirement is based on hours. Lawmakers in Milwaukee are proposing a bill that would leave the decision to make up lost instructional time in the hands of the school district, if they meet certain criteria.
“The state actually has a report card system and that’s weighted on a bunch of different criteria and schools in Wisconsin are rated by DPI as meets expectations, exceeds expectations, or significantly exceeds expectations,” said Sen. Dale Kooyenga, co-author of the bill.
The bill would only benefit school districts that are exceeding expectations set by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s yearly performance report.
Under the bill, districts that do not exceed expectations would still have to follow the number of days in the classroom.
“Our rational is let’s just give our school districts who are high performers more flexibilities,” said Kooyenga.
Lawmakers say the goal is to give local districts more power in deciding how to move forward when severe weather or other emergency situations impact instructional time.
“We’ll see if it gets done in time for this year …we think it’s a bill that republicans and democrats should support and I think we should all agree that we should put more power with our local school districts and less power in Madison and that’s exactly what the bill does,” said Kooyenga.
Unfortunately the Eau Claire and Chippewa Falls School Districts would not qualify for the benefits of this bill as both districts meet expectations set by the state and do not exceed state performance expectations.
Other area districts like Altoona, Durand, Mondovi, Menomonie, and several others however would qualify.
To find out if your local district would qualify, state performance report cards can be accessed here.