A Message about Snow Days from Dr. Kirchhofer
The weather, or at least the forecast, has not been our friend lately with it seeming like every week, there’s another snow day. While we hope that spring comes sooner rather than later to put an end to these unplanned class cancellations, history shows that we’re probably not finished with the winter weather.
That brings up the topic of how many days we will need to make up this year. In order to address these questions, it’s important to know a few things about the calendar.
This year, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) changed the calendar requirements from the number of days attended to the number of hours in the classroom. The minimum number of instruction hours is 1,044 hours.
The Northwest calendar is drafted by a committee, with the final draft approved by the Board of Education each year. Once the calendar is approved, it is set. Snow days are not built into our calendar and are traditionally added at the end of the year, which is why we never know the last day of school until the weather has warmed up and snow days are no longer a threat to our schedule. Currently we have canceled 8 school days, which is about 52 hours. We will continue to monitor the hours to make sure we meet the DESE requirements and fulfill our contractual obligations.
Other school districts do not necessarily have the same calendar as Northwest. Recently, a neighboring district reported to staff that they do not have to make up the days (hours) they have missed. This is because their calendars were created with well over the minimum requirement of 1,044 hours. The difference in hours can happen for a variety of reasons, such as a longer school day, more school days, and not having weekly late start days.
That said, I would not be inclined to quickly give up those student attendance days instead of making them up. There are several things to consider, such as lost learning time and opportunities, sending an unintended message that perhaps minutes don’t matter, and more. Either way, our current calendar does not allow for much flexibility when it comes to make up hours, and I don’t think mother nature is finished with winter weather just yet. Stay tuned.