Snow Days bill signed, school districts get weather reprieve

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Minnesota school districts were handed an excused absence slip this week when Governor Walz signed the snow days bill that will remove penalties for school days lost due to Minnesota’s cold, snowy winter. The bill signing took place in the Governor’s reception room with Commissioner Mary Catherine Rickert and other legislators.

Missed school days became an issue after severe cold in January forced schools to close. Record snow fall in February also shuttered schools, again forcing them to keep buses off snow-clogged roads and highways.

As the snow days mounted, many districts realized they were at risk of falling short of the required numbers of days prescribed by state law (165 days). Some started adjusting school days by holding classes on otherwise closed days, shortening spring breaks, or looking to extend the school year further into June. Districts risked penalties for non-compliance with the required number of school days and hours. The provisions are in effect for the 2018-19 school year only.

The Senate and House passed a compromise bill last week. The bill allows school boards to determine how many days they will declare instructional days to meet the state minimum. The bill signed includes pay provisions for hourly and contract employees and provisions for probationary teachers. School districts must also report to the commissioner the number of days the board approves to count as instructional days under the bill. (SF 1743)