Traverse City Record-Eagle

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February 15, 2014

Schools grapple with lost time

TRAVERSE CITY — Wicked winter weather is catching up to local students.

Benzie County Central Schools were supposed to be closed Feb. 17 for Presidents Day, but school officials decided to hold classes in an effort to make up one of the district’s eight weather-related cancellations this year.

State law allows school districts to cancel six days of classes each year. Any additional days off need to be made up, or a district risks losing state funding. Most districts in the Grand Traverse region called off school between five and eight times so far this winter.

Benzie Central Superintendent Dave Micinski said holding classes on Presidents Day will help his district meet the state’s criteria, but he’s also ready to shorten summer, if needed.

“Our plan simply would be extending the calendar from Tuesday, June 10 to Wednesday, June 11,” Micinski said.

Traverse City Area Public Schools also canceled classes eight times thus far this year. TCAPS Human Resources Executive Director Christine Davis said district officials will wait until April and then decide how they’ll meet the state’s requirements.

Last year TCAPS used several waivers and exemptions offered by state lawmakers and Michigan’s Department of Education to avoid extending the school year into the summer, despite the district canceling more than 10 days of class because of inclement weather.

Keith Smith, superintendent of Kingsley Area Schools, said his district won’t have a problem meeting the requirements regarding canceled days, but state law also mandates that districts must provide 1,098 hours of instruction to students each year.

“Any more snow days and I’ll have to start counting hours,” Smith said.

A bill introduced in the state House of Representatives this month would require districts to schedule make-up instructional time in 30-minute increments, as opposed to shorter five- or 10-minute increments tacked to the end of already-scheduled school days.

But Michigan’s Board of Education this week encouraged schools to replace lost time with full days of instruction.

Lee Sandy, superintendent of Kalkaska Public Schools, where classes have been canceled five times this winter, said he supports the state board’s stance.

“Kids don’t benefit with an extra 30 minutes a day,” he said. “They do benefit with a whole day of school.”

The ASSOCIATED PRESS contributed to this report.

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