Snow Days Haze: Copper Country schools waiting for Legislature’s decision

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Houghton-Portage Township Schools superintendent Doreen Klingbeil gives an update to the board Monday on the progress of snow day legislation moving through the state Legislature.

HOUGHTON — At this point, whether or not Houghton-Portage Township Schools will have to make up snow days depends on the outcome of state legislation.

Schools in the Copper Country Intermediate School District missed two days during a statewide emergency declared by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in late January. The declaration came in response to record snowfalls and freezing temperatures around the state.

State House Bill 4206, sponsored by Rep. Ben Frederick, R-Owosso, would forgive snow days that occurred during the emergency.

Districts automatically have up to six snow days forgiven. They can apply to the state for waivers for an additional three.

Copper Country Intermediate School District Superintendent George Stockero has said he will apply for the full three days at the end of winter.

Houghton-Portage Township Schools has had 10 snow days this year. The elementary school missed another eight-tenths of the day because of the flu.

“We’ll have to look at that, unless they waive the week of emergency, then we’re fine,” Klingbeil said. “We can stick with 180 days of school.”

Michigan schools are required to have 180 school days and 1,098 hours of instruction. Failure to meet those numbers can lead to cuts in their state school aid funding, which accounts for the bulk of districts’ revenue.

Frederick’s bill would also allow districts to waive the 180-day requirement for districts that missed more than 14 days of school, provided it met the minimum amount of instructional time.

The bill would also lower the threshold at which a district receives lower funding for low attendance caused by reasons beyond the district’s control.

Districts would get the full amount of state funding for days in which at least 60% of students attend, versus the current 75%.

It was passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee by an 8-4 vote. The House has yet to hold a vote.

Senate Bill 113, a similar bill sponsored by Sen. Jim Ananich, D-Flint, is in the Education and Career Readiness Committee. The bill also includes the waiver of snow days during the emergency.

Klingbeil said it seemed probable a bill would pass forgiving the days.

“We’re in a good situation … we were out 10 days here, but downstate there were some schools out 18,19 days,” she said.