November 30, 2010
Time to rethink snow make-up days
Last week, the Issaquah School District made the right call by shutting down because of the hazardous driving conditions brought on by snowy weather. But is it really necessary to make up those missed school days? Surely there’s a better way.
The school calendar is complicated enough without trying to squeeze in snow make-up days. State law mandates a 180-day school year — an arbitrary number now accepted as a minimum in every state in the nation. As a result, unexpected closures result in students sitting in classrooms a few days later into June.
If this winter is as bad as weather forecasters have predicted, it could easily take school to nearly July.
Snow make-up days in late June are pointless. Very little learning really goes on during the last week or two of school anyway. Some students have already taken their finals and simply mark time in the classroom. Others look out the window at the sunny, warm weather and dream of other places they’d rather be. Teachers plan a few wrap-up activities that are more about fun than book learning.
As it is now, many parents just take their kids out of school, skipping those make-up days to proceed with vacation plans.
Realistically, is there a substantial difference between a 180- and 178-day school year?
Winter is when the real learning occurs, and those lost school days can never really be made up. One option is for the state law to allow some flexibility in its mandatory 180-days and just call the snow day for what it is — a loss. Save the fuel in the school buses and let the children skip a day or two.
Or, better yet, plan the school calendar with 182 or more days of learning time.
If the make-up days are not used by the end of April, announce that school will be released early. Instead of feeling like a punishment as school drags into early summer days, parents, teachers, administrators and students can celebrate the early release.