District 11 will not make up ‘cold days’

Anoka-Hennepin District 11 will not make up any of the five days lost when schools closed for cold weather.

After a recommendation from administration to press on with the current schedule, the school board released a statement this week saying that the district will do just that.

“While educators regret the lost instructional time, they realize that changing the school calendar mid-year could place a hardship on families that have already scheduled vacations,” the statement read. “In addition, the school calendar includes enough days beyond the state minimum, so there is no requirement to make up days already lost.”

The state requires elementary students to have 935 hours of instruction and students in grades seven through 12 to be in school for 1,020 hours of instruction each year.

Secondary students under Anoka-Hennepin’s daily schedule would need to be in class 166 days to hit that 1,020 hour-mark, according to Derrick Williams, communication specialist for the district.

The 2013-2014 calendar includes 173 days of planned instruction for secondary students and 172 days for elementary students, so there is some cushion.

“They’re not days that are built in for snow days,” Williams said of the schedule. “We just value educational time in the classroom.”

At the school board meeting Jan. 27, one of the five days canceled with extremely cold temperatures, Superintendent Dennis Carlson hinted that the days may not be made up. With school already going into mid-June – students’ last day is June 11 – adding days at the end of the year would not be ideal. Since all of the canceled days fell in trimester two, already the shortest trimester, staff planning days may have been converted to student contact days if school staff felt additional instructional time was necessary, Carlson said.

Parent-teacher conferences in the middle schools and Compass Program that were canceled with the cold will be rescheduled by principals at a later date.

Contract language and canceled days

Contract language pertaining to canceled days varies slightly for each bargaining group, but in general, staff is not required to report to school and does not see any loss of wages, according to Director of Communication and Public Relations Mary Olson.

Building supervisors are an exception. They are required to report to work in order to check the building – make sure everything is secure, the boiler is working, etc., Olson said. Custodians are supposed to call in to their supervisors and see if they need to report to work. If their services are not required, they do not lose pay.

Administrators generally come in to work as usual, according to Olson, who added that most staff is probably keeping up with their duties when school is canceled. “I would be surprised if many teachers were not working on those days, working from home.”

A ‘very unusual’ year

“We used to have the reputation as being the district that never closed,” Olson said.

Each of the last three years, the district has called off school at least once, but before that time, closings occurred very sporadically.

All five days were canceled for dangerously cold temperatures this year, but snow has been the cancellation culprit in prior years.

“With cuts that some of our cities have made … they’re not plowing as often as they did before or as early as they did before,” Olson said.

Anoka-Hennepin closes schools with negative windchill values if the National Weather Service issues a warning. When snow and ice descend, the district relies on staff driving the roads between 3:00 and 5:30 a.m. to determine if buses will make their routes safely. The call is typically made no later than 6 a.m., according to Olson.

The district has called off school more times this year than it has in the past 10 years combined. It’s what Olson calls “very unusual.”

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]