Bill would aid Minnesota school districts struggling with high number of snow days

Published 7:27 pm Wednesday, February 27, 2019

By Brian Bakst, Minnesota Public Radio News


School districts could soon get clearance from the Minnesota Legislature to shorten their academic calendars amid an extraordinary winter of class cancellations.

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A bill that key lawmakers have put on the fast track would give district boards the ability to vote to have fewer than the state-required 165 days of instruction this year. It was approved Wednesday by the Senate’s education panel and sent to the floor for a vote soon.

Lawmakers are hoping to move the bill as quickly as possible to provide needed clarity to districts well before the end of session in May and the end of the school year in June. Districts would be required to report to the state how many days they held class during the year.

“Timing is of the essence,” said Gary Amoroso, executive director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. Some schools are adding minutes to each day to get to their yearly academic time while others are considering shorter breaks or summer add-ons.

Senate Education Chairwoman Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, said it would protect districts from any possible fallout.

“They could lose funding,” said Nelson, chief sponsor of the legislation. “The superintendent, technically the school district, could be sued. There are all kinds of ridiculous possibilities.”

Nelson told colleagues that a shorter school year wouldn’t mean smaller paychecks for teachers because the proposal is not intended to circumvent negotiated contracts.

Many districts have canceled a week or more of school over the last two months, with some in southern Minnesota having to call off school for nine days due to snow or extreme cold.

Other schools were able to shift to electronic learning days.