Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

March 21, 2014

Schools mull more days in class after harsh winter

DETROIT (AP) — Rudyard Area Schools in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula dodged a wintry bullet on the first day of spring.

The small, rural district roughly halfway between the Mackinac Bridge and Sault Ste. Marie has closed five days this school year because of snow or cold. Superintendent Mark Pavloski said a “slushy, nasty” morning had him wondering if Thursday would be the sixth, but conditions improved enough to stay open.

Education officials statewide are looking nervously at weather reports and school calendars. State law allows only six days to be canceled or else schools lose state funding, and many are at or over the limit after a particularly harsh winter.

“We’re hoping we make it. ... We have next week, then we have spring break,” Pavloski said. “We’re right on the edge of having to come back.”

Some districts have already extended their school years. Among them is Monroe Public Schools, which has lost 15 days to bad weather since Jan. 1. The district in the far southeastern part of the state would have ended classes on June 6 but now will go through June 18.

Detroit Public Schools, the state’s largest district in a city that’s experienced its second-snowiest winter, has had nine days off overall. Plans on how to handle the extra days are being hashed out by administrators, a district spokeswoman said.

Legislation has been introduced that would let schools lengthen their days for the rest of the school year instead of having to make them up. A similar one-time measure was signed into law last year by Gov. Rick Snyder. State Superintendent Mike Flanagan opposes the language, preferring instead that districts add days.

“He’s all for more, not less instructional time,” said spokesman Michigan Department of Education spokesman Bill DiSessa. “He’s aware that families make plans ... but the other part of reality is we talk about needing to add instructional time and improve education in Michigan.”

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