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Winter Math: More Snow Means Longer School Days

Students got a late Christmas “present” when they returned to school after winter break this year: 10 extra minutes of class.

Thanks to being hit by unusually snowy weather in November and two more snow days in December, the Thornapple Kellogg School District already has had to cancel school on six days. That’s the maximum number allowed under state attendance requirements before schools have to make up for the lost instruction time.

The district had built two additional days into the 2014-2015 school calendar over the required 175 days after experiencing 14 snow days last year, Superintendent Tom Enslen said. Having reached the six-day limit before the new year began, the district went into a proactive mode of adding five minutes to the beginning of the school day and five minutes to the end of the day after Christmas break.

Enslen worked with the teachers’ union to develop the plan for adding extra minutes. Those minutes will give the district a padding of two school days if more winter weather causes its schools to be closed. Enslen said the two measures give the district a little over four days of closings.

Schools are required by the state to hold 1,098 hours of classroom time. They can ask for snow-day waivers after April 1, said Bill DiSessa, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Education. The last two school years have seen Gov. Rick Snyder sign changes in the requirements to help schools hit hard by snow days. The calls are tough to make, DiSessa said, since schools can lose state funding if too many days are missed.

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Michigan Department of Education Pupil Accounting Manual 

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Linda Odette
Linda Odette
Linda Odette is a freelance writer and editor with more than 30 years of experience in journalism. She’s worked primarily as an editor in feature departments at newspapers in West Michigan, including the Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chronicle and the Holland Sentinel. She lives in East Grand Rapids near the Eastown edge, has a teenage son and a daughter in college. Read Linda's full bio or email Linda.

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