Snow Days Reach Limits in Mid-Michigan

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It's been 28 years since Superintendent Stanley S. Kogut joined the Ingham Intermediate School District, and he's never seen weather wreak this kind of havoc on the academic calendar.

"I don't remember us coming against the six [snow] days before," he said. "This cold weather, which is driving it, plus the heavy snow."

Last month's ice storms along with frigid blizzard conditions in January are starting to add up. Many districts are at or approaching their sixth snow day -- the max before students have to make them up.

"That means you're going to be going to school in June when the sun's shining," said Kogut.

Not every district across greater Lansing was closed Monday. Many, however, decided not to send students out on messy roads and in sub-zero wind chills indices.

"For superintendents, this is one of the biggest challenges they have. If they keep schools closed on days where there's heavy snow or there's very cold, they get calls. If they open, they get calls also," Kogut said. "No matter what you do it's a no-win situation."

Each district is different, Kogut said. Many rural districts cancel after struggling with messy country roads. Wind chill can be another factor to canceling class. Kogut says when the index drops below 20 below zero, it's too dangerous for kids.

The extra days won't only be costing students more time, it will cost the districts money. Kogut says teachers and administrators won't need extra payment, but food services, custodial staffs and bus drivers all need compensation.

"If you start getting three, four, five days you have to carry over, because we've lost those days, it could get expensive for schools," he said. "It's something they've not budgeted for and right now everyone is really stretched dollar-wise so a few thousand dollars makes a difference."

Schools can also choose to add minutes on to the school day.

Still, the Michigan Department of Education says the expense is worth it.

"Our bottom line is that children need to be educated, so if kids are out of school, they get six days now that are allowable," said Martin Ackley, a department spokesperson. "Beyond that we feel children should be in school. They shouldn't be shortchanged because of weather."

Schools in Michigan are required to be open for 180 days or 1,098 hours.

Per Michigan law, if a school needs to close after Apr. 1, it can get a wavier so the day won't have to be made up. Otherwise, exceptions to the rule have to be approved by the state legislature.

Last March, the legislature allowed such an exception after spring flooding.

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