Snow days during State of Emergency would be forgiven under new plan

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LANSING (WJRT) (2/11/2019) - Legislators in both the Michigan House and Senate are working on laws that would exempt schools from snow days during a State of Emergency.

The proposal comes in reaction to a full week of snow days for most Mid-Michigan schools from Jan. 28 to Feb. 1, when heavy snow and extreme cold blanketed the area.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a statewide State of Emergency for Wednesday through Friday that week, when wind chills dipped below -30 degrees. Coupled with continued snowy weather, many school districts in Mid-Michigan have exhausted their allotment of snow days.

State Rep. Ben Frederick, a Republican from Owosso, announced on Monday that he is working on legislation that would allow schools not to count Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 as snow days.

“Closing school wasn’t so much of a choice as it was a necessity,” Frederick said. “When the weather is so bad emergency officials are telling people to stay off the roads in the interest of public safety, it makes good sense to forgive those days.”

Under his plan, schools that close during a weather-related State of Emergency would get amnesty for those days, so the snow days wouldn't count toward the annual allotment of six.

Frederick said he started working on legislation after a Byron teacher approached him with the idea.

“This plan strikes the right balance by providing relief for days when an emergency is declared, while still ensuring our kids spend an adequate amount of time in the classroom,” Frederick said. "It’s fair for everyone.”

State Sen. Jim Ananich, a Democrat from Flint, also has floated a new state law that would exempt snow days from counting against schools during a State of Emergency. That would give back three of last week's snow days -- and any future snow days during a State of Emergency.

Ananich also is mulling a proposal that would give back all snow days that school districts incurred this year because the weather has been extreme.

He is considering both approaches and bills to be drafted before submitting any formal legislation.