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Districts find creative solutions to make up snow days

The city snow pile at the Pioneer Village parking lot certainly hasn't been receding over the past few days. Additional snow and wintry-mix conditions are forecast for the coming weekend. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

Editor’s note: While this isn’t a comprehensive list of every area school district’s snow day make-up plans, it showcases different approaches to making up large amount of snow days.

REGIONAL — What appears to be an unusually tough and bitter winter isn’t only wearing on area residents; it has created a headache for many area school districts.

With area districts having accumulated upwards of 10 snow days, school administrators and school boards are deploying a bit of creativity when it comes ensuring student contact days and teacher contract hours are satisfied without cutting too far into students’ and staffs’ summer breaks.

From shortened spring breaks to alternative (E-Learning) days, or elongating school days or the school year, area districts have devised a variety of plans to make up days they’ve had to close school due to a number of harsh winter weather events.

Two weeks ago, District 518 in Worthington announced a combination of methods to make up its snow days.

It’ll add alternative (digital) learning days — a new concept to the district — on March 25 and April 22. Spring break will be shortened, as students will now be in class April 18.

Due to hitting its ninth closure of the year last week, June 3 and June 4 have also been added to the list of instructional days for students. June 4 is planned as a half day.

Rather than add multiple full additional days, some school districts have made the decision to extend their school days for a period of time.

Area districts include:

  1. Adrian. As of Monday, the district had missed 10 days due to weather. According to Superintendent Roger Graff, 30 minutes will be added onto students’ normal school days from March 4 through April 22. If necessary, additional days will be made up following the normal calendar year.
  2. Round Lake-Brewster. After Monday, the RL-B district accumulated eight snow days, five of which will be made up by extending the school day by one hour March 4 through April 18, said Superintendent Ray Hassing. Students will also report to school on April 22, which was originally intended for Easter vacation. The remaining two days and any future snow days will be tacked onto the end of the original calendar year.
  3. Murray County Central. Having missed nine full school days, the district will extend its school day by 20 minutes through the remainder of the year, said Superintendent Joe Meyer. That will satisfy four of the missed days. The other three will be made up on May 29, 30 and 31.

Meanwhile, other area districts have taken advantage of E-Learning days, which the state legislature allows five per calendar year.

According to Pipestone Area School Superintendent Kevin Enerson, four of the district’s 10 snow days have already been made up electronically. Four others were to be made up physically during the school year: Feb. 18, March 11, April 18 and April 22.

Windom Area Schools and Jackson County Central also made up select days with an E-Learning method.

For districts like Luverne and Sibley-Ocheyedan, Iowa, snow days are scheduled to be made up following what was originally scheduled as the last day of school for their respective districts.

While each district is grappling with different amounts of snow days it needs to make up, superintendents agree: this winter produced the most snow days in recent history.

So what exactly goes into considering whether or not to call off school?

According to Sibley-Ocheyedan Superintendent Bill Boer, there isn’t a concise, neat answer.

Nor is it an exact science, Luverne Superintendent Craig Oftedahl said.

First and foremost, many area superintendents agree, consideration of student safety is at the forefront of the decision-making process.

Consideration is also given to visibility, road conditions, wind chill factors and forecasts from the National Weather Service.

The decision-makers also engage in a string of communication. They consult with a combination of their respective busing companies, transportation authorities, other area school district superintendents/principals and even select residents from within the district, as is the case for S-O.

Ultimately, it’s a tough decision that district leaders say they take seriously in regard to student and staff safety.