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As snow days pile up, many districts are extending the school year

Updated: 2014-03-03T16:49:55Z

By JOE ROBERTSON

The Kansas City Star

No regrets. As school calendars start to feel the strain of snow days, superintendents by and large aren’t thinking twice about past decisions to close schools.

And they can’t imagine changing their cautious approach, even if winter socks the area again — and again.

“I think it’s a safe assumption that as the snow days accumulate, we deliberate a little longer on the decision to close,” Cass Midway Superintendent Gordon Myers said.

“That said, however, student safety is always our primary consideration. We’d never compromise their safety and have school when we shouldn’t have it.”

Generally, area school districts have lost four or five school days, including three this week.

A few have used six. A few that have used only three days got lucky and had a teacher training day or other day without classes scheduled on what became a snow day for everyone else.

Most calendars, without snow days, had projected to send children out for the summer a couple of days before Memorial Day weekend near the end of May.

No calendars are alike. Some districts will be out by May 23, but most in the area report that they are now returning after Memorial Day and going to around May 28.

Missouri requires schools to be in session for a minimum of 174 days. Kansas goes by hours, requiring a minimum of 1,116.

In the past, when winter dealt a particularly extreme number of school-canceling storms, legislators gave schools a reprieve.

Most districts expect to keep adding on to the end of the year, though some said cutting into spring break might be an option. In most cases, the decisions to alter calendars will go before school boards.

“I anticipate another major storm,” said West Platte Superintendent Jerrod Wheeler. “If we are lucky and the governor forgives the days (lost) with this storm … we may change plans accordingly.”

The pressure on the back end of the schedule comes from summer school, as many districts are planning four-week sessions that begin the first week of June and are done before the Fourth of July holiday.

All of those considerations, though, will be secondary each time superintendents are staring down a dangerous winter blast.

“If (snow day) No. 1 is not possible, and day 15 looks the same, it is also not possible to have school,” said Lee’s Summit Superintendent David McGehee. “The criteria for safety doesn’t change.”

To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to jrobertson@kcstar.com.

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