Snow day bill provides relief for school districts

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published May 21, 2019

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FERNDALE/BERKLEY — Earlier this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a House bill that gives relief to school districts that had to cancel school because of weather-related issues.

Whitmer signed House Bill 4206 May 10, which forgave four snow days that forced school cancellations across Michigan after a state of emergency was declared for extremely cold temperatures.

“Our state continues to experience more erratic and extreme weather patterns every year, which affects our schools, economy and way of life,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This legislation will provide certainty to families and school districts who need to prepare for the end of the school year, but we need to get serious about tackling this problem in the future and ensuring that students receive a quality education.”

Michigan’s current law states that school districts can cancel up to six days of school each year for weather emergencies, like cold temperatures or snow. Districts can ask the state superintendent to forgive up to three days of canceled classes if they go over the allotted six.

Because many districts already had close to or more than double-digit days of school cancellations, the bill was created to provide relief.

Ferndale Public Schools already had canceled eight days of school this year and planned to file for the waiver to get three of them forgiven.

Director of Communications and Pupil Services Bill Good said he was happy to see the Legislature pass this bill.

“It was a good compromise by the governor and the Legislature,” he said. “It benefits us because, again, we won’t have to worry about applying for a waiver or anything like that.”

Berkley School District was at six cancellations and didn’t have to worry about filing for a waiver, but Director of Communications Jessica Stilger said the district was pleased that Whitmer signed the bill.

“It’s just nice to know that there’s a little bit of a cushion this year and in future years,” she said.

On the off chance that something unusual happened and both school districts had more than the number of forgiven days, both Good and Stilger said there were some conversations as to what they would do if they weren’t able to waive any of the canceled school days.

“We did some contingency planning and we had a couple of ideas kind of on the table of how we’d approach it,” Good said. “We try to keep in pretty regular contact with our local legislators. So they were kind of keeping us updated on the status of the bill so that we kind of knew sort of what was coming, We didn’t know the exact specifics, but we had a number of different plans depending on which way things went, but luckily we didn’t have to use any of them.”

Stilger said there was some discussion at the administrative level of the “what if?” questions, as in what if Whitmer doesn’t sign the bill, or what if the district has to extend the school year?

“We had discussions about it, but we never put anything in place,” she said. “We were pretty confident that if we were put in a position to make up any type of days or hours, we would’ve found the least intrusive way to integrate that into our calendar. We know our families have a lot of plans as soon as school is out. So there’s really just more at the discussion level of kind of what would be some solutions if we were to be put in that position, but we were feeling pretty good only being at six days and not having to worry about creating something new.”

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