Minnesota Senate passes snow day relief bill for schools

With more snow on the way, some relief might be in sight for Minnesota school districts figuring out whether they will need to extend their calendars or not.

Thursday, Minnesota lawmakers took a significant step toward forgiving snow days, but a big compromise still needs to come from the House.

“Let me get out my magic wand, here we go, no more snow, especially down in my neck of the woods,” said state Senator Carla Nelson (R-Rochester).

Sen. Nelson shared some wishful thinking about preventing a potential for more snow days following the state Senate vote for her snow day relief bill. It passed 61 to 2. 

If the bill can now get through the House, it would allow districts to count all of their snow days this winter as instructional days without receiving a state penalty.

However, a House version of the proposed legislation is drastically different and would only allow districts to forgive three days which kept kids out of class during the polar vortex in late January.

“I think there are a couple problems,” said Sen. Nelson. “One, if you are just limiting it to those three days that doesn’t allow the flexibility and local control that our school boards need. But I do want to emphasize the legislation passed off the Senate floor today does require resolution by the local school board. We are also requiring our students of course learn the same amount of information.”

Governor Tim Walz has said he's glad the Legislature is taking this into consideration. 

“We were very deliberate when these snow days came up through technology and trusting local officials to make the decisions to keep their students safe,” said Gov. Walz. “We need to just make sure we don’t punish them for making the right decision.” 

Both the House and Senate versions now require districts to give hourly employees the opportunity to make up hours or be compensated at their normal hourly wage. If anything should pass, Nelson points out it's unprecedented and only for this year.

“I don’t believe we are getting soft,” said Sen. Nelson. “I think we are giving schools local control. I think we are being wise. And not penalizing them and putting children at risk.” 

At a later time, lawmakers also hope to address more e-learning days, which are currently capped at five. The House could take up its bill next week.