Schools weather the storm

By: Maria Allard | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 19, 2014

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — In his career in education, Clintondale Community Schools Superintendent George Sassin has never witnessed so many school closings during a calendar year because of the weather.

Most superintendents throughout Macomb County called off school seven days in January because of heavy snowfalls, frigid temperatures and below-zero wind chills.

It’s not an easy decision to close schools because of inclement weather, and many aspects are considered to make the determination.

“Usually, I consult with a number of local school districts, the transportation department, a number of weather sources, the road crews in our area while keeping the safety of our students first and foremost,” Sassin stated in an email.

Other than a minor coil issue on a unit at Clintondale Middle School, the district did not experience any building damage because of the cold and snow.

Currently, the district has reached its limit of snow days. In addition, McGlinnen Elementary School has exceeded the hours allowed by the State of Michigan because of a power outage earlier in the school year.

It was unknown at press time whether or not McGlinnen would have to make up the lost time.

“The State usually decides later in the school year to inform us if the days are forgiven or if time needs to be made up,” Sassin’s email stated.

On Feb. 12, the Michigan State Board of Education released a press release unanimously adopting a statement on the replacement of snow days.

According to the release, when a local school district exceeds the six snow days allowable by state law, it is encouraging districts to replace the lost time with full days of instruction, instead of adding hours to the remaining days on their existing school calendars.

The release stated that current state law requires school districts to offer at least 1,098 hours of instruction in the 2013-14 school year. Many districts provide 180 days of instruction, although some districts provide more.

“State law also recognizes that circumstances outside of the control of a school district, such as severe weather, illness outbreaks, or interruptions in utilities, may cause schools to be closed unexpectedly,” the press release stated. “The law provides for up to six such days to be counted toward those 1,098 hours without loss of state aid. Any days beyond the six allowed must be replaced for the district to receive its full amount of state aid.

“Legislation (House Bill 5285) has been introduced to allow school districts to make up those additional days beyond the six allowed by adding minutes onto each day remaining on their school calendars. A better solution would be to make them up with full days of student instruction,” according to the press release.