Although the winter of 2012-13 got off to a fairly mild and uneventful start, since January classes have been cancelled four times in Crookston schools because of severe winter weather.
Minnesota law requires no minimum number of days each school year that students must actually be in school, and the Crookston School Board doesn't build a certain number of storm days into its calendar. Still, the four days lost to the weather over the past couple months had Superintendent Chris Bates on Monday asking board members if they felt adding a day or two to the current school year later in the spring was necessary.
Not that he was recommending such a move. Having students in school instead of having the Monday off after Easter probably isn't a wise idea, Bates said, since the Easter holiday was already embedded in the 2012-13 school calendar and, with Easter fast approaching, many families have probably made plans that include a long weekend. Then there's the fact that it's not quite the middle of March, he said, and March is statistically the snowiest month of the winter. "We may have more snow days," he said. "There may be more storms to come."
So Bates recommended that the board sit on the topic for a month or so, when major snow events will likely be in the rear-view mirror. The school year is scheduled to end on the last Wednesday of May, he said, so a day or two could potentially be added to the end of the school calendar without forcing students to come back the first week of June.
That's not the best idea, either, said sixth-grade teacher Barb Chapman, in attendance at the meeting. "An extra day at the end of the year isn't really a school day, it's babysitting," she said, adding that testing and academics in general have essentially concluded by the last week of school. Speaking for Highland School specifically, Chapman noted that the school lacks air conditioning and that if it's a warm spring "we'll be baking inside those bricks."
Chapman stressed that she wasn't entirely against making up a school day, but if it's going to happen she prefers that it be added before students start taking the next round of MCA tests.
Weather-related activity cancellation policy
The board officially endorsed a new weather-related activity cancellation policy that everyone hopes provides a little wiggle room for differing circumstances. The policy, crafted in large part by Bates and board member Dave Davidson, includes the following points of note:
• If school is dismissed early and athletic practices have been cancelled as well, so-called "captain's practices" organized by the student-athletes "should not" be organized, regardless of venue. The last part of the language refers to the city-owned Crookston Sports Center, which typically remains open during stormy weather, while students aren't allowed access to the school buildings.
Page 2 of 2 - • If classes are delayed in the morning but the school day is completed, the athletic and activity schedule should remain unchanged for that day and evening.
• If school is cancelled but weather conditions improve and the forecast is favorable, the school district reserves the right to allow practices and conduct games on a case-by-case basis. Some may be held and some may not be held, depending on the weather conditions at a given opponent's location, and whether or not an opponent concurs with the decision made in Crookston.
• In the event of post-season section or regional contests, a section/region committee would have final say on what events are held and what ones are cancelled.
• If school is cancelled due to factors not related to the weather, such as a burst water pipe or power outage, decisions on activity schedules would be made on a case-by-case basis.
The policy will be more effective, Bates said, if other school districts in the region adopt it as well. "If you don't have your opponents on the same page, some of the decisions we make on our end might not matter anyway," he said.
Davidson said it's a good policy. "I think it's a nice document and is something the district can use and have a little flexibility with issues that have come up in the past and will likely come up in the future," he said.