Dane County school districts look to staff-only days, extra minutes to make up for winter weather
As the snow stacked up Tuesday, so did the challenges for Madison-area school districts to ensure students meet the state’s required instructional hours.
Snow, cold and ice over the past three weeks has resulted in Dane County schools canceling at least five days of classes. To make that time up, students will be in the classroom during teacher-only days, and others will face slightly longer school days throughout the academic year.
By the end of last week, the Verona School District had called off four days of school this winter. The district was already planning to end late-start days and shorten the passing period between two class hours for high school students, along with having all students turn up for classes on the Feb. 22 staff-only day.
But the overnight snowfall prompted a fifth cancellation this year and will require district administration meet this week to discuss how to further make up hours, said district spokeswoman Kelly Kloepping.
“It has certainly been a challenging year for Mother Nature,” she said in an email.
The state Department of Public Instruction requires a minimum number of annual instructional hours: 437 for kindergarten, 1,050 for grades one through six, and 1,137 for grades seven through 12.
For students at the Monona Grove School District, Tuesday marked the seventh missed day of classes -- one caused by diesel-run buses not being able to operate following the extremely cold temperatures two weeks ago.
Monona Grove High School students will have class on Monday and April 22 for previously scheduled staff-only days to make up for the fourth and fifth cancellations, said district spokeswoman Katy Byrnes Kaiser.
But with more hours out of the classroom, Monona Grove students across all grade levels are expected to need extra instructional hours, Byrnes Kaiser said, and the School Board is scheduled to adjust the academic calendar at its meeting Wednesday.
Perry Hibner, spokesman for the Middleton-Cross Plains School District, said as of now, the high school does not need a full day added to the calendar even after six days have been called off for students.
A little more than five days of buffer time is built into the high school’s calendar, Hibner said, so secondary students are likely to face between three and five minutes added to each school day to meet state-mandated instructional hours.
Randy Guttenberg, superintendent of the Waunakee School District, said two staff-only development days -- March 1 and May 20 -- will turn into regular school days for all grade levels following six days of weather-related cancellations this winter.
Additionally, he said high school students will likely need about four minutes added to each day starting within the next week or so that would run through the remainder of the school year.
“We’re trying to maximize the value of our time with our students,” Guttenberg said.
He said the most days he’s seen called off in his 11 years with the district was four.
“I’ve never had six days in my entire career,” Guttenberg said.
Further time off would result in tacking on days in June, Guttenberg said, during a week that has professional development opportunities scheduled for teachers that would need to be rearranged.