Janesville45.5°

Schools ask DPI to overlook snow days

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
February 9, 2008
— Rock County schoolchildren would have reason to rejoice if state education officials give the right answer.

The question is: Can the schools ignore this week’s two snow days?


If the answer is yes, kids would have 178 days of school this year instead of the required 180.


If not, it’s possible they’ll have to spend a couple of Saturdays at school.


Patrick Gasper, spokesman for the state Department of Public Instruction, said that as far as he knows, the DPI has never granted an exemption to the 180-day rule for weather reasons.


The heads of all eight Rock County school districts are hoping the state will break with that tradition.


The superintendents sent a letter to DPI on Friday, requesting that DPI count Wednesday and Thursday as days that school was in session, even though it wasn’t.


“If DPI says no, then we’ve got some tough decisions to make regarding use of Saturdays or other options, but let’s wait to see what DPI says. Perhaps they’ll be lenient in this situation,” said Janesville schools Superintendent Tom Evert.


The letter makes the case that the snowstorm was an extraordinary event that dumped up to 20 inches of snow.


The governor declared the county to be in an emergency, and the sheriff’s department asked school administrators to keep schools closed on Thursday, according to the letter.


Gasper said Friday that DPI hadn’t yet received the letter from the superintendents and so couldn’t comment on it.


State statutes require 180 days of school, and those days can include parent/teacher conference days, Gasper said.


Statutes also require schools to provide a minimum number of student-contact hours each year. For half-day kindergarten, 437 hours are required. Grades 1-6 must provide 1,050 hours. Grades 7-12 must have 1,137 hours.


Schools can add minutes to the end of school days to meet the hours requirement, but they can’t add hours to avoid the 180-day rule, Gasper said.


The Janesville School District has called off school because of the weather four days this school year. The district built one extra day into its schedule, so it has three days to make up


One of those days will be made up on the day after school ends—Friday, June 6—Evert said.


But adding more makeup days in June would be difficult if not impossible. The district’s summer school starts Monday, June 9, and Evert said it’s not possible to change summer-school dates.


Evert said he didn’t want to cut into spring break because so many families already plan to be out of town on those dates.


“I prefer to look at Saturdays,” he said.


The district has not had to make up three snow days in the past 29 years in which records were kept.


“It’s just a huge amount to try to make up, and we’re not done,” Evert said.


Not done with one of the snowiest winters on record, that is.



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