School leaders decide how to make up time lost from winter - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

School leaders decide how to make up time lost from record-setting winter

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(04/17/14) - As temperatures begin to rise and the snow melts away, school districts across the state are left to solve a problem brought on by a record-setting winter.

The brutal weather forced them to cancel classes for days at a time. Now, district leaders must decide how to make up that lost time.

No question - this has been a tough winter.

Genesee County was hit very hard and broke some uncomfortable records. Saginaw County wasn't too far behind.

Now, the state is stepping in to help school districts and make sure students don't lose out on instructional time.

There were moments this winter when it seemed we might never be done shoveling snow.

Genesee County recorded 83.9 inches on the way to the snowiest season ever. Saginaw County saw close to 60 inches, well above the normal of 46.

An even bigger blow came from the prolonged freezing temperatures. Numbers show Genesee County recorded its all time coldest stretch from November to March, with an average high of only 24 degrees.

During the same time, Saginaw County battled its second coldest stretch ever, with temperatures averaging an even-chillier 23 degrees.

That doesn't include wind chill measurements.

"There were a number of days we were below negative 20," said Richard Syrek, Saginaw ISD superintendent.

"This winter was extremely tough on families, parents that work and kids that had to stay at home, particularly with the cold temperatures. It was difficult at the bus stops this winter for students," said Don Killingbeck Jr, superintendent of Hemlock Public Schools.

All that winter weather put the big chill on school district calendars. Classes were canceled - sometimes for a week at a time

"I've never seen a winter like this. I've been with the ISD for  years and I was a K-12 teacher for 20 years. Never seen a winter like this," Syrek said.

Now, as the sun comes out, the temperatures rise and the school year approaches its end,  it's time to make up those lost classroom hours.

Normally, state law requires districts to have 170 days of instruction. Six days are forgiven for any weather emergencies. Beyond that, districts must make up days they miss. At least 75 percent of the students enrolled have to be in attendance on those makeup days.

"Many districts went over there threshold of six days. There were probably some districts that were right up against it, but a lot of them have gone over, no question about it," said Bill Disessa, of the Michigan Department of Education.

This year, lawmakers in Lansing voted to give those district's a break. New legislation signed by Gov. Snyder helps the ones with longer school years.

"To sort of give them flexibility," Disessa said.

They won't have to make up days if students have been in class for 174 days by the end of the year. That includes credit for the six forgiven weather emergency days.

"This is a one time only fix for this school year," Disessa said.

There is also relief for districts that have to add makeup time this summer.

"State law says for days to count, you have to have at least 75 percent of students in attendance. This new language is going to lower that threshold to 60 percent," Disessa said.

Important rules district's have to follow.

"The penalty if they don't meet it, is they lose state aid payment, and with times being so tough, it's kind of important. You are talking about districts that are at or near deficits, so yes, certainly those districts can't afford to lose any money," Disessa said.

The legislative changes are just to help districts this year. The goal is to make sure students get the classroom time they need, while ensuring districts secure their state aid and help families who might have summer plans.

District's will follow the normal regulations when kids go back to class in September.

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