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School days take hit from cold: Make-up days a possibility, superintendent says

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BEMIDJI — It’s been quite the winter break for area students.

A regularly scheduled 10-day winter break was extended by a day this past Thursday because of the cold.

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Then, after students got back into their classrooms Friday, Gov. Mark Dayton cited extremely frigid temperatures as he canceled classes statewide for Monday. Bemidji Area Schools then canceled classes for Tuesday, again citing well-below-zero temperatures.

“It has been unusual,” said Jim Hess, superintendent of Bemidji Area Schools, reflecting on the winter to date. “We get cold weather in Bemidji, absolutely. But to have all this, this early in the year, that’s pretty amazing, and to have so many snow events in December … we’ve had quite an interesting challenge.”

For this school year, there now has been two late starts, three cancellations and one early release.

While not unmanageable, frequent class cancellations can impact students, some more so than others. At Bemidji High School, for example, which is on a block schedule, one 90-minute class is equivalent to one and a half days of class. So, two canceled classes equates to three missed days of instruction.

“It can certainly … be a hardship,” Hess said.

But while missed classes can make things more difficult, Hess isn’t worried about Bemidji students.

“Our teaching staff is terrific,” he said. “Our kids will be great shape when the school year is over. I’m confident of that.”

Make-up days?

The state of Minnesota sets requirements for instruction. For full-day kindergarten, it must have 850 hours of instruction a year; for grades 1-6, 935 hours; and for grades 7-12,1,020 hours.

Bemidji Area Schools sets its calendar to meet the state requirements and also fulfill obligations made with collective bargaining units.

Bemidji’s 2013-14 school calendar deems Tuesday, June 3, as the last day of school, but it also lists possible snow make-up days for June 5 and 6 (June 4 is a half-day for teachers).

Last year, the district ended up needing to use its two scheduled makeup days.

Hess allowed for that possibility this year, as well.

“When the governor called off school the other day, he did call off school, but he didn’t change the requirements for the hours of instruction,” Hess said.

He said the district will closely examine its calendar in April or May, once all the inclimate weather is behind us.

“We’re hoping that we get some nice, seasonal weather here soon,” he said. “Seasonable weather up here is still cold, but it’s not so brutally cold.”

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