At Limit: Copper Country schools have used all their snow days

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Lewis and Cat Vendlinski, 10, look for books at the Portage Lake District Library during the most recent snow day on March 11.

HOUGHTON — The odds are against most local school districts having to make up days closed — as long as there aren’t more.

Most schools in the Copper Country Intermediate School District have missed nine days because of snow or cold, said superintendent George Stockero.

The state allows up districts to miss up to six days without having to make up time. Districts can also apply to the state superintendent of schools for additional waivers of up to three days.

Houghton Elementary School missed an additional eight-tenths of a day because of the flu. In Baraga County, Baraga has missed seven days, L’Anse nine, and Arvon Township Schools 10 days. Hancock schools also missed an additional day Friday after a roof collapse.

Under state law, districts are required to offer 1,098 class hours and a minimum of 180 days.

“We have over 1,100 hours,” said Melissa Newland, business manager at Arvon Township Schools. “We’re not really worried about making up time, but if we have to make up that 10th day, we will.”

So far, 617 local school districts have requested snow day waivers, according to state figures. Of those, 557 requested the full three days. In most cases, the state has granted the number requested.

Stockero is waiting until the end of winter to apply to the state. He’s also waiting on legislative action that would exempt schools from needing to make up days declared during a state emergency.

Schools missed two days locally in February, when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer declared a statewide emergency due to cold.

“We would still have to apply for the waiver, but we believe that we would not have to make it up,” Stockero said.

Two bills have been introduced in the state Legislature — Senate Bill 113, introduced by Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, and State Rep. Ben Frederick, R-Owosso. The bills would forgive school days canceled during the emergency.

Frederick’s bill would also allow districts with 60 percent of students in attendance to receive full funding for the day — down from the current 75 percent.

Both bills are in committee.

State Rep. Greg Markkanen, R-Hancock, said he is also working toward asking the governor for additional measures. In 2013, Gov. Rick Snyder signed a a bill allowing schools to lengthen school hours rather than schedule additional days.

Extending the school year could hurt Copper Country schools, he said, many of which don’t have air conditioning in buildings or buses.

“There’s a lot of people that are stressed, a lot of superintendents that don’t know what’s coming next,” said Markkanen, a former teacher at Baraga High School. “It’s up to the state government to step up and help them out.”

During the most recent snow day on March 11, Andi Vendlinski of Houghton was browsing the shelves at the Portage Lake District Library with her 10-year-old twins, Cat and Lewis.

She’d prefer longer school days to adding more in June.

“By the end of the year, they’re done,” she said. “They don’t want to go any more days.”

Lewis likes snow days — unless they fall on Wednesdays, the day when his family has a no-electronics policy.

“I like snow days, but I kind of miss being at school,” Cat said.