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Cedar Springs schools makes adjustments for snow days

Snow and ice have made driving on back roads dangerous for school buses this winter. 
Photo by Evelyn Avery.

By Judy Reed

Icy, snowy and dangerous winter weather, including sub-zero temperatures and power outages, caused both Cedar Springs Public Schools and Creative Technologies Academy to close 14 times this year. That’s eight more times than the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) allows without the days being made up. And winter isn’t over yet.

The MDE also allows schools to apply for a waiver for three extra closings, above the six. Both Cedar Springs Public and CTA applied for the waiver. CTA was approved, but Cedar Springs Public was denied. Meaning CTA will make up five days, while Cedar Springs will make up eight. Why the disparity?

According to Cedar Springs Superintendent Scott Smith, it’s because Cedar Springs is currently in session less than 180 days, the amount currently required by state law, though they are in session the 1,098 required hours. The school has only been in session 172 days a year since the 2013-2014 school year, because of an eight-year bargaining agreement with staff signed in June 2013.

“The time requirement, a minimum of 1098 hours per year, was first applied to the 2010/11 school year,” explained Smith. “The rules changed again beginning with the 2014/15 school year, when districts were required to provide at least 1098 hours of instruction and have at least 175 days of instruction. Beginning in the 2016/17 school year districts were required to provide at least 1098 hours of instruction and have at least 180 days of instruction.  There is a provision in the law that honors collective bargaining agreements that were effectively in place on July 1, 2013. Cedar Springs Public Schools signed an eight-year collective bargaining agreement with the Cedar Springs Education Association in June of 2013.  

“We are in compliance with the minimum of 1098 hours of instruction but we meet that standard with 172 days of school,” he added. “Our school day is slightly longer, a minimum of six hours and 23 minutes, than districts that have 180 days of instruction on their calendar. A district like Sparta would have a minimum of six hours and six minutes of instruction per day.”

The bottom line is that they are in class the same number of hours per year as those that go 180 days. And yet, they were denied the extra three days.

There may, however, be some help from the legislature, as a couple of bills have been introduced to forgive days missed during a state emergency, as happened earlier this year. The Post contacted Senate Majority Floor Leader Peter MacGregor, R-Rockford, about the issue.

“Legislation has been introduced in both the state Senate and House of Representatives that seeks to forgive school districts for cancelling school due to a declared state emergency,” he said. “I think that there is sufficient interest amongst my colleagues for the bills to be taken up for consideration. The Legislature will need to find the balance between offering relief for a declared emergency and the amount of time students are spending in the classroom.”  

In the meantime, Cedar Springs has made a few changes to their schedule because of the many school closings. All early release days left on the calendar will become full days. Not because it would count towards time made up (it wouldn’t) but to help the students get back instructional time they’ve missed. “This change will allow our students and teachers to recapture over 10 hours of instructional time before the upcoming State and Advanced Placement testing cycles begin in April and May,” Smith explained.

Additional days added to their calendar to make up the eight days missed are May 24, June 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14.  

See more info from the Superintendent on the Cedar Springs School page on page 11.

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