Ferndale Public Schools to seek waiver for days missed due to weather

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 5, 2019

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FERNDALE/BERKLEY — School districts across Michigan have had their fair share of school closings this year, and that’s left local districts worrying about possible repercussions.

Under state law, Michigan school districts are allowed to cancel classes up to six times each year. If a district goes over, it can apply with the state superintendent for an extra three days.

Both the Ferndale and Berkley school districts already have used their six allotted days to cancel classes. The same goes for many other districts around Michigan, as snow and weather-related issues have forced schools to shut down several times this school year.

In Ferndale’s case, Director of Communications and Pupil Services Bill Good said the district actually used eight days and will have to apply for the extra three. The two other days were because the district had less than 75 percent of students in attendance those particular days. High winds in February caused a loss of power at Ferndale Upper Elementary School one day, and a Friday in January had low attendance after the two previous days were closed due to extreme cold weather.

“If the state grants us the waiver, then we would be all set,” Good said. “If they elected to not grant us the waiver, then we would have to add the additional days that we need at the end of the school year.”

Good doesn’t anticipate that the state will deny the district’s waiver to grant the three extra days, but since all possibilities are on the table, the district would have to look at adding more school days, which he said is problematic.

“When you publish your calendar, families and our staff, they make plans based on when school ends,” he said. “Our last school day is a Friday (June 14). So if we needed to add another day at the end of the year, it would be that following Monday. You still have to meet the attendance requirements to be able to count that day. So if our extra day is on a Monday and we don’t have enough students here because everybody went on vacation, that makes it problematic as well.”

“It makes it really challenging, and that’s why our desire is not to add days at the end of the year if we can avoid it,” Good further stated. “Obviously, if we have to, we have to and we’ll do our best to communicate that and hope people can change plans and we can make it happen. In the event we can avoid it, we’d like to.”

The Berkley School District is not in the same boat as Ferndale, as the district has used the allotted six days given and no more, said Director of Communications Jessica Stilger.

At the beginning of the school year, Stilger said the district does have conversations about the possibility of exceeding the forgiven six days, and if it happened, the district would look at if there were days scheduled for no attendance or half days that it could bring back, and hopefully it would not have to look at extending the school year.

“If we were in a situation where we reached 10 snow days after everything shakes out this year, then the administrative team will sit down and look at how many hours we have in, how many days, and are there any avenues that we can choose in terms of a potential extension that would have the least impact on our families,” she said.

Any schools that go over the allotted number of weather days given by the state would lose funding for every day gone over. With Ferndale, if it is not granted a waiver, then it would be two days over and Good said it could lose thousands of dollars in state funding.

“We have to make the decision (of) do we want to add two days to the end of the year to replace those low attendance days, or are we just going to eat the ($5,000) or $6,000 per day that we lose in state funding?” he said. “That’s where we have to kind of make a calculated decision, as far as where we’re going to go.”

There currently is a bill introduced into the Michigan state Senate that would forgive any days that were canceled because of a state of emergency declaration. If passed, then Ferndale would not exceed the number of forgiven days.

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