Missouri lawmaker proposes to excuse winter storm days

Skies are clear and snow has stopped falling across most of the state, but now Missouri school districts are trying to figure out how to reschedule days lost to the winter storm that swept through the state several weeks ago.

One Missouri lawmaker wants to excuse schools from making up the days missed due to weather from Jan. 31 to Feb. 4 so that schools do not need to cut into their spring breaks or push back their summer holiday.

“I consider it a compromise,” said sponsoring Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall. “I think make-ups are important. I think attending a good number of days is important. But I think you have to decide, where do we get to that level where it’s counterproductive?”

Aull, a former school superintendent and administrator, said he wants the bill to be passed by early March so that schools can re-work their schedules quickly. The bill would take effect when Gov. Jay Nixon signs it instead of in August when many laws take effect.

Missouri law requires that students be in class for at least 174 days for a school to receive all of its state funding. Under that law, schools must make up the first six days that are cancelled because of inclement weather if missing those days puts the school under the 174-day minimum. After that, schools are required to make up one-half of the days that are missed, up to eight snow days.

Schools do not need to make up any missed days after that — even if students would be in class for fewer than 174 days.

However, many school districts already include six possible snow days in the calendars they set at the beginning of the year. That way, they still have days to spare if it snows. In other words, many schools schedule 180 days of class.

Aull wants to excuse all the school days missed when Gov. Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency.

Without that change, some schools might need to hold classes into late May or early June.

David Luther, a spokesman for Jefferson City Public Schools, said the district has had nine snow days, which includes the week a storm dropped about 18 inches of snow in the capital city.

Luther said the district already schedules the first six days that must be made up into the calendar at the start of the year. But for the other two days that need to be made up, he said the district is considering holding class on Good Friday or after Memorial Day.

Luther said finishing after Memorial Day could cut into the summer plans for teachers and students’ families.

“Coming back one day after Memorial Day is not very productive,” he said.

Ron Lankford, a deputy commissioner for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the snow has caused problems for schools.

“School districts think in the best interest of safety, and this storm was such it wasn’t an argument about whether the roads were too slick, you just had roads you couldn’t get through,“ said Lankford to members of The Associated Press and the Missouri Press Association at their annual Capitol media event this past week. “So school districts will have to try to wrestle with trying to make it up.”

Aull filed his legislation this past week and claims support from about a dozen Republican lawmakers.

“This is not a Democratic or Republican issue,” Aull said. “This is everyone thinking about how we can help the schools out.”

Snow days bill is HB471

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