Schools feeling the impact of snow days.

February 13, 2019

Schools feeling the impact of snow days.

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

Schools in Mason County have been seeing the snow days pile up the past few weeks. To date, all four of the county’s public schools have had 11 snow/weather days. While a snow day here and there can be exciting for the students, multiple days can wreak havoc on curriculum and extra curricular schedules. They can also cause hardships for many students who rely on school for stability and nourishment.

Michigan public schools are allotted six weather closing days but can apply for an additional three days. Superintendents of the three public school districts each said they plan on applying for waivers of the three additional days.

“Shelia Alles, the interim state superintendent, approves those waivers and stated at last week’s superintendent conference that she ‘would be as accommodating as possible,” said Mason County Central Superintendent Jeff Mount.

State legislators are working on bills that would exempt schools from snow days during a state of emergency. The proposal followed reaction to a full week of snow days for most mid-Michigan schools, Jan. 28 to Feb. 1, when heavy snow and frigid temperatures hit the area. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency for three days that week when wind chills plummeted below -30 degrees. State Rep. Ben Frederick (R-Owosso), announced this week that he is working on legislation that would allow schools not to count Jan. 30 to Feb. 1 as snow days.

“The district is optimistic that the State Superintendent of Instruction will provide the three additional forgiven days and equivalent hours of instruction that she has the authority to provide,” Ludington Area School District Superintendent Jason Kennedy said. “If that is the case, the district will need to make up two days of instruction. The district plans to work closely with its staff to develop a plan to make up those days; however, it is highly likely that these two days would be added on to the end of the school year. School is scheduled to end on Wednesday, June 12, 2019, and adding the two additional make up days would push the last day of school for the year to Friday, June 14, 2019.”

“As for curriculum, our students certainly do not learn as much at home and intermittently attending school is hard on our students as well as our teachers,” Mount said. “Routine is very important in a school setting.  For athletics, athletic directors are scrambling to adjust schedules to get as many of the competitions in as possible. We are running out of days prior to the beginning of state tournaments to get them all in. This is done with emphasis on district, regional and conference competitions.”

Mason County Eastern Superintendent Paul Shoup agreed. “Curriculum has definitely been affected by snow days,” Shoup said. “Every day a child in not in school is a day lost of important instruction. Whether it is because of inclement weather, vacation or sickness. It will also have an effect on state testing, as any instructional days made up will occur after  the testing period is over.

“Most students are ready to be back to school,” Shoup said. “The first few days were fun, but school creates a structure for kids. Most people like to have some structure in their lives. It also is a place for them to socialize and they miss their friends. 

Shoup added that the athletic schedule has also been greatly impacted. “We are at the point where we are rescheduling rescheduled games,” he said.

Mount, Shoup and Kennedy all agreed that they have been concerned with the length of school days not only because of the impact on the school, but the impact on the children as well.

“We have a food bank available to students but that is all that has been done at MCE,” Shoup said. “It does worry me as most of our students take advantage of the free breakfast and lunch program that is offered at MCE.”

“For the most part, everyone enjoys the first couple of snow days, except for the superintendents who have to make the tough calls,” Mount said. “But we also know that many of our students get at least two nutritional meals per day when they are at school.  When they are home, that may not be the case, and it worries me.  We do not have a contingency in place for serving meals to our students as that would require their traveling to us, or us to them, and defeat the purpose of why we are not in school, unsafe travel conditions.

Mason County Central Schools operates the Meals on Wheels program for senior citizens. Mount said the school’s food service has worked hard to assure that the seniors in the program continued to be fed.

“Our very dedicated food service staff are making every effort to continue providing meals to our seniors in the county,” Mount said. “They have been doubling up meals on days ahead of snow storms in case they cannot make it due to anticipated poor travel conditions.  Our staff even put on foot gear for ice fisherman to deal with the ice we had last week.  They are awesome.”

Kennedy said there are community programs in place in Ludington to assist students when they are not in school.

“While I am always concerned about things such as students missing meals at school, we are blessed to have organizations such as the Lakeshore Food Club, who help to improve food insecurity for our families,” Kennedy said. “Programs like the Orange and Black Backpack program, Lakeshore Food 4 Kids, among others, are additional supports that are available to directly support school students and their families.”

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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