STILLWATER, Minn. (FOX 9) - Presidents Day will now be a school day for middle school and high school students in Stillwater, Minnesota and Hastings to make up for the for the snow days and cold weather closures in January and early February.
The Stillwater school board approved a change to the school calendar to provide a make up for the snow days and cold weather closures in January.
Five minutes will also be added to the end of the school day on Presidents Day (Monday, Feb. 18) to reach the state’s instructional hours threshold for sixth through twelfth grade students. Preschool and elementary students will not have school, with Feb. 18 being a parent-teacher conference day.
“We understand this is short notice for families and we apologize for the inconvenience,” Stillwater Area Public Schools said in a bulletin. “If your middle school or high school student will not be in attendance on Feb. 18 we just ask that you enter it as an absence in Skyward. “Please note, this decision was made prior to the Feb. 8 snow day, so additional action may be required in the future. We encourage you to contact local legislators to encourage them to waive the instruction hour requirements this year to avoid additional make up days.”
Many schools across Minnesota missed four consecutive days of school due to dangerously cold temperatures at the end of January, with wind chills dropping to 50s below zero. Many of those same schools lost another day of instruction in February to a snowstorm coupled with another day of extreme cold.
“After missing five days of school so far this winter due to snow and cold (and delaying school two hours on an additional day), we now fall below the state-required student instruction hours for students in grades 6-12,” the district noted. “Based on the number of minutes in each student day, middle school and high school students need to attend school 168 days within our current calendar to meet the requirement. As of Feb. 8, we're now at 166 days.”
Hastings Public Schools Superintendent Tim Collins said he made the decision to hold school on Presidents Day once it became apparent they would not have school on Thursday and Friday last week.
“The Hastings School District has missed 7 out of the last 10 days of school," Collins said. "We are looking at days, into the future, and trying to make some of those days up. We recognize that we are not going to be able to make up all of the days that we have missed.”
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has left the school closing decisions up to local districts, believing they have the best judgment for their communities. Back in the 1990s, Gov. Arne Carlson canceled school statewide due to the cold in 1994, 1996 and 1997 when wind chills in parts of the state reached 60 or 80 below. In 2014, Gov. Mark Dayton closed all Minnesota schools when temperatures severely dropped.
Gov. Walz has stated Minnesota school districts will not be punished if they fall short of the state’s required instruction time due to weather-related closures, but Stillwater doesn’t want to take any chances.
“While the governor has suggested a dispensation for time lost this winter, it will take legislative action to make that a reality,” Stillwater Public Schools said.