Snow-day cloud has silver lining
State law requires the district to make up three snow days, and the state has denied a request that Rock County schools be excused for two of this year’s snow days.
But because of the way the state law works, the makeup days will be shorter than normal school days, Superintendent Tom Evert said.
State law requires a minimum number of hours of instruction at each grade level each year. Because the hours of instruction scheduled in the Janesville district are ahead of the state minimum, the make-up days don’t have to be as long normal schooldays.
How long will they be? Evert said that hasn’t been calculated, yet.
One of the three make-up days will likely be added to the end of the school year, on Friday, June 6.
Evert wants the other two make-ups to be Saturdays, probably in April and/or May.
But Evert must discuss the make-up schedule with the leadership of the teachers union before a make-up schedule is set. Agreement from the union is required in the union contract, Evert said.
Evert said he’s already getting e-mails opposed to make-up days on Saturdays. Most suggest that Janesville simply add minutes onto the days for the rest of the school year, but the law does not allow that, Evert said.
Chatter around the community is that many students won’t show up for Saturday school. Evert would not speculate.
“My request is that everyone roll up their sleeves and make the best of a very difficult situation,” Evert said.
“We’ll be open to educate our students,” Evert added. “My hope is one and all will take advantage of the learning opportunity and make it a good day, and we move forward.”
Evert said he knows people will be unhappy at having to go to school on Saturdays. He said he is disappointed that the state didn’t grant a waiver at least one of the two days earlier this month.
He noted that the governor declared an emergency in Rock County, and Rock County Sheriff Bob Spoden asked schools to stay closed on Feb. 7.
“Obviously, this was a very extraordinary situation, and with the action of governor and Sheriff Spoden, I think the justification (for a waiver) was apparent,” Evert said.
Evert said he isn’t inclined to build more snow days into the district’s schedule to avoid this problem in the future.
“This is the first time we’ve faced this in at least 34 years,” Evert noted. “Our current system has served us well.”
Janesville has had one or no snow days in most years over the past three decades. Having even two days off for snow has been unusual.
“So I would not be inclined to respond to a once-every-30-to-40-year occurrence by adding days,” Evert said.
“However, the calendar has yet to be set with Janesville Education Association leadership, and I’m sure this will be discussed.”
Days and hours
The state of Wisconsin has a two-fisted law regulating how long the school year must be:
-- The year must be 180 days long. The length of the day is not specified.
-- The number of hours of face-to-face contact between students and teachers also is regulated. The minimum number of hours for half-day kindergarten is 437 hours. Students must get 1,050 contact hours in grades 1-6. Students in grades 7-12 must receive 1,137 hours.
Schools may 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.
What if students don’t show up for snow-day make-up days?
That depends on the number of student absences the rest of the year. A student who is absent from school without an acceptable excuse part or all of five or more days during a semester is considered a habitual truant.
“The responsibility for student attendance rests with the student and parent,” according to a Janesville School District newsletter.