GUEST EDIT: Snow-day waiver means cheating students

The following editorial was published in the Feb. 12 edition of the Grand Haven Tribune:

Snow days are great when you’re a kid. It’s an unexpected day off to go out and romp in the snow or stay in and watch hours of mindless television. It’s an extra day to do your homework or study for a big test.

For teachers, a snow day is probably a welcome break.

But the mountain of snow and ice days accumulating over the past couple of weeks is bordering on ridiculousness (a tip of the hat to a mindless MTV show).

Michigan requires its schools to have a minimum of 180 instructional days, or 1,098 total hours, each school year. Out of that total, school districts are allowed to cancel up to six days each year due to conditions beyond their control. That would include snowstorms, icy roads, power outages — which were all in play the past couple of weeks — and health concerns.

We applaud the local school district superintendents for putting students and their staff members’ safety first by keeping the doors closed when it is downright dangerous to be on the road (in the case of the recent ice events) and too darn cold to be outside waiting for a bus (as with the earlier subzero wind chills).

However, we cringe at the talk about requesting waivers for an extra three snow days so they don’t have to extend the school year to meet the 180-day requirement.

What does that teach kids? Rules are made for breaking?

A requested waiver is not automatic. School officials have to show that they are unable to reschedule the missed days later in the school year.

But it does happen, and frequently. In fact, about 200 of Michigan’s school districts were granted additional “snow” days after making requests last school year, the Lansing State Journal recently reported. Only 10 districts did not get extra days after requesting them, according to the Michigan Department of Education.

Could the schools make up the days by canceling spring break? A lot of families have already planned and put money down on getaways for that time. That’s just too short of a notice.

But extending the school year by a few days or even a week in June should be the answer. That’s already in the common conversation every winter when a string of snow days occur, so it should come as no surprise when it happens. Especially this year.

We expect our kids to be properly educated. That requires time spent in school. And the state has long calculated that as being half of the days in a calendar year. To otherwise cheat their education is not the answer.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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