Dowagiac schools running out of snow days

Published 9:31 am Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Regardless of whether Dowagiac students are enjoying their snow days or suffering from a prolonged bout of cabin fever, they all face the possibility of a shortened summer vacation.

With Monday’s cancelation, the Dowagiac Union School District has used up all six of the allotted days it can call-off school without making them up, according to state law. The district has already canceled school five additional times this month alone, due to the continuing adverse winter weather conditions.

If the district’s leadership declares any more closings this year, there’s a possibility that they will be forced to extend the school year past its scheduled ending date of June 6, said Dowagiac Superintendent Mark Daniel.

According to Michigan law, public school districts must have 180 total days of schooling each year, Daniel said. After the six allotted cancelations, every day that is missed and not made up will be subtracted from the amount of revenue the state provides them the next year.

“We don’t want to do that, We have to have all the state aid we normally receive,” Daniel said. “You can’t afford to miss a day.”

With continuing severe weather conditions adversely impacting local roads, Daniel said the possibility is high that the school with be forced to exceed its allotted cancelations for this year.

The administration plans to meet Tuesday to discuss ways of making up for any additional lost time. Depending on the amount time the district has to make up, students may be able to avoid delaying summer break by having classes on developmental days, when the schools are normally closed, Daniel said.

Still, Daniel said he and other local superintendents hope that Gov. Rick Snyder and the state legislature will allow public schools to make up the time by extending hours of currently scheduled days, rather than requiring them to extend the year.

State lawmakers passed a bill that permitted that last year, though it only allowed districts to do so for the 2013 school year.

“This has been one heck of a winter, so I think that’s going to happen this year as well,” Daniel said.

Last year was the first time the district exceeded its maximum allotment of cancelations since Daniel took over as superintendent, he said.