A recent string of bad weather has caused Michigan schools to call for snow day amnesty.
Michigan law dictates that a school district must have at least 1,098 hours of instruction and a minimum of 180 school days. School districts are allowed six cancellations for “acts of God” such as weather, fires, and power outages. A district can petition the state superintendent for three more cancellations, but any days after that must be made up, usually by extending the school year into summer vacation.
Many Michigan schools have already used nine days and some have gone over the limit and will have to make up class time.
Some Michigan lawmakers say that this isn’t appropriate. State Rep. Ben Frederick (R-Owosso) has drafted a “snow day amnesty bill” that would forgive all snow days called during the recent state of emergency and automatically forgive future cancellations during states of emergency.
“Why should it be that schools lose days from their snow day bank when complying with a state of emergency?” asked Frederick. “A weather-related state emergency typically comes with a command to not travel more than necessary, so schools naturally feel ‘well, we should close,’ in those circumstances.”
Frederick said his bill is supported by educators and parents.
Frederick is not the only Michigan lawmaker with snow day forgiveness in mind.
State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said he is working on a bill similar to Frederick’s that would not count snow days during states of emergency and is also considering a plan to forgive districts that have gone over the limit this year.
Some educators say. that this isn’t enough. Barbara Knighton, a 4th grade teacher at Elmwood Elementary School in the Waverly district, says that any time the governor declares a state of emergency schools should automatically close. “It would be the height of irresponsibility for any school to even consider holding classes. Therefore, I think that those days should be above and beyond the regular ‘act of God’ days,” said Knighton.
Knighton does support Frederick’s bill, however, saying that the “governor essentially ‘cancelled’ school herself by declaring the state of emergency. No school would have been able to decide differently. Parents and families wouldn’t have sent them to school.”
Frederick has said he will propose the bill to the State House this week. It will have to pass through the State House and State Senate before reaching the governor’s desk.