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Districts ponder make-up of school days lost to cold

Several days have been cancelled at area school districts because of cold weather, and now staff, administration and parents wonder: When will the days be made up?

At Pequot Lakes School District, four days of school have been cancelled so far this year, and all four were cancelled because of cold temperatures.

Superintendent Chris Lindholm said the school board has the final call on how to deal with those lost days. Lindholm will make a recommendation to the board, but hasn’t decided what the recommendation will be.

State statute says that schools must provide 1,020 hours of school time over 165 days. Pequot Lakes Schools are well over that minimum at 172 days in its school year, Lindholm said, so meeting that requirement isn’t an issue.

“It’s not about what’s required; that’s not the question we have to wrestle with. The more important question is do we see learning time as an incredibly valuable resource or not?” Lindholm said.

He’s leaning toward two or three makeup days for students. He did not say when they would be made up.

The two options are reducing spring break or adding to the end of the year. Spring break is more difficult because many students’ families have made plans. The last day of school is currently scheduled for May 29.

Teachers are paid for 180 days of teaching, Lindholm said. He said the district needs to be financially prudent in that respect.

“We want to make sure they’re working that because we’re paying them for that,” he said.

The board will make the final decision at its Monday, Feb. 10, meeting.

Nisswa Elementary School is part of the Brainerd School District and had four canceled school days in January because of the cold. One of those days will be made up on Easter Monday, April 21, which was previously scheduled off.

The school board will consider how to make up the other three days at its Monday, Feb. 10, meeting.

Superintendent Steve Razidlo told the Brainerd Dispatch he guessed those days would be made up with a combination of student days and staff work days, which likely would be added to the end of the school year.

June 4 is currently scheduled as the last day of school.

Members of the Pine River-Backus School teaching staff, administration and board discussed the district’s five missed school days at their quarterly meet and confer meeting Thursday, Jan. 30.

Discussion began with the idea that students could make up missed days by coming two extra days in June, extending the school year to June 3.

Some of those present said it would be better for test scores at the end of the year if students make up missed class time earlier in the semester. One popular suggestion was to have students make up missed class time during spring break.

It was mentioned that teachers as well as students depend on spring break for a rest; however, many of the teachers present were in support of the idea of shortening spring break to make up for cancelled school days.

“What is the best thing for our kids?” asked teacher Steve Bergerson. “It’s to get them in here, get them learning. Make up that time so they can be more successful.”

Bergerson suggested that in a school of 60 percent free and reduced lunch, most students will likely still be in the area during spring break.

Board member Jim Coffland reminded those present that there is still the possibility that students could miss more school.

Other recommendations included making up days during President’s Day and Good Friday. It was agreed that MCA tests must be considered for the makeup days. Superintendent Cathy Bettino said MCA test windows cannot be extended to allow students to make up time missed.

Bettino said a recent survey showed that people in the school district are largely against making up missed school during spring break.

The group also discussed the possible use of school iPads on days when the school closes to keep students from missing lessons in the future.

The PR-B School Board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24, when it is expected to adopt a revised school calendar.