Why snow days don't mean school will go until July - how we really make them up instead

How Snow Days Get Made Up

January 29, 2014 by Michelle

I’m happy.  The wee ones are back in school again today, although I know there are certainly parts of the country where school has been canceled yet again.  My fingers are crossed that though we’re still in January living in Chicago, this is the end of our days of canceled school.  I’ve heard many friends lamenting the days we’ve had off school and how if this keeps up, their kids will be in school until July.

Why snow days don't mean school will go until July - how we really make them up instead

Actually, that’s not the case.  Thankfully!

Schools are required to set aside a certain number of backup days on their school calendar, based on how many days off school they’ve had to use in the past and a number of other factors.  In most cases, the calendar has five of these days penciled in.  When we receive our school calendar, we have a “earliest possible last day of school” and a “last day of school (with 5 snow days)” – and we hope for that first one.

We’ve now had three days of school canceled, so we’ve used up three of our snow days, meaning that we count forward from that earliest possible last day to figure out our current last day of school.  Assuming we make it to mid-March or so with no further days off school, the school board will meet and set the final day of school – even if we have additional emergencies, which thankfully we never have (then again, we’ve never had three snow days used before either).

Some school districts are choosing to make up the days during the school year instead, by making previous days off school into attendance days.  For example, if you had President’s Day off, now maybe you don’t.  Those decisions have been communicated to the families within those districts, but much as I love the idea of not extending the school year, I can see that being a challenge for families (including teachers) who already have vacations planned during those days off.

But what happens if it continues to snow and freeze?  Once we pass the 5 days off allocated on the school calendar, then what?  Fortunately, we’re pretty safe.  Once we have more than 5 days canceled (or whatever the number is that your district has set aside), days beyond that should be “free” days off, meaning that we don’t have to make them up.

Why do I say should?  Technically, the school districts have to apply to the state for a waiver to allow them to have fewer attendance days than required.  The good news is that waiver is generally granted without second thought.  Especially with the wacky weather, there shouldn’t be any problems getting waivers if we continue to have bad weather and need to cancel more school.

The only downside is that if the state sees that there is a pattern of canceling more days of school than allotted, they will require school districts to set aside more backup days on the calendar going forward so that in the future, schools would have to make up more days off than they do currently.  Let’s cross our fingers that this is a one year aberration and not something that we’ll need to revisit year after year.  And yes, the state could deny the waiver request and require schools to hold school past the anticipated last day, but I wouldn’t worry about that.

Good news?  No, you won’t have to go to school until July, even if the weather continues to make roads and travel unsafe.  The bad news is that the weather pattern doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.

So bundle up, stay warm and safe, but at least take one worry off your list!


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