Back in November, I wrote about a bill being sponsored by Rep. Jim Grueneich (R – District 12) that proposes allowing school districts to submit an application to the Superintendent of Public Instruction for approval to utilize a “virtual education plan” as an alternative to making up school cancellations due to inclement weather. It is House Bill 1170. The bar is high for this bill though. It requires “at least ninety-five percent student participation in the virtual education plan.”
At the time I wrote about HB 1170, I expressed my view that I didn’t ultimately have a problem with it, because it’s voluntary. But I don’t like the aspect of having to beg approval from the Superintendent of Public Instruction. Yet, that’s what we can expect in a state with virtually no local control over education.
Well, today one reader of The Minuteman pointed out another bill relating to snow days that I hadn’t seen yet. In my opinion, it’s a much better bill. Senate Bill 2229 is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman (D – District 23). The legislation is actually fairly simple. It would add an exception to existing law that:
“… a school is not required to make up the time between early dismissal and the conclusion of a full day of classroom instruction if the dismissal was due [to] a no travel advisory by the national weather service for the area encompassing the school district.” (Emphasis Added)
As you can see, this bill deals specifically with days missed due to no travel advisories, because there are cases when school is cancelled for reasons other than this. As I mentioned back in November, schools often have to makeup lost days, because state law requires 175 days of instruction from July first to June thirtieth of the following year. If you’ve lived in North Dakota for a while, then you probably know that this can get to be a cumbersome task for school districts across the state. It often means building extra days into school calendars and sometimes extending school days as well.
I suppose the fundamental question at hand isn’t necessarily how much of a headache it can be for schools to plan their yearly calendars around weather that hasn’t happened yet, but whether losing instruction time from the 175-day requirement is overly problematic for students?
In addition to this question, I suppose the challenge some folks might have with the bill is that teachers and administrators are contracted for a set amount of days during the course of a school year. So, if the bill passed, and students weren’t required to makeup days lost due to no travel advisories, it’s likely that teachers and administrators would still have to fill out their contracts— doing something. What that something is could of course be determined by the schools, but what would it be? Working in their classrooms? Professional development? Preparing for the coming year?
I’m also guessing someone might point out the fact that schools aren’t required to plan their calendars in the traditional sense that we see them. They could start school years earlier and/or end later— meaning they could cut into summer vacation time as a means of ensuring the 175-day requirement is easily met without having to makeup cancellations.
What do you think? Would you be okay with schools not being required to make up days lost to no travel advisories? Or are these days so vital to the education of the students that they need to be made up? Let us know your thoughts. And if you feel strongly about it, make sure you contact your legislators.
SB 2229 will be heard tomorrow morning in the Senate Education Committee at 10:30am.
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Note: The aforementioned HB 1170 — which proposes virtual education plans — will be heard on Wednesday, January 23rd at 10am in the House Education Committee.