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Doug Froke, superintendent of Detroit Lakes Schools, talks to a weather expert before deciding whether to call off school.

Students pay for snow days later in year

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

It’s been one of those winters — the kind many kids love. Storm days have been a thing much talked about this year.

But for those students — the days of play mean days to pay.

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Here’s where area school districts stand.

Detroit Lakes

So far the Detroit Lakes School District has called off school five times this winter.

“At this point in time, we’ve got four of those scheduled to be made up within the calendar, and we’re still trying to determine the best course of action for the one that the governor called off,” said Nancy Olson, business manager for the school district.

Storm days are built into the academic calendar in Detroit Lakes, with one falling on a teacher in-service day on March 21 (now a school day), and two during the Easter Break, which be shortened as school will now be in session on April 17 and 21.

In a perfect non-stormy year, students would have gotten out of school on May 22, but now that will be extended to at least May 23 with a possibility of it going post-Memorial Day.

Although typically the district tries to get students out before Memorial Day, Superintendent Doug Froke says not only do they have another day to make up somewhere, but there is also a lot of winter ahead.

“Maybe going back after Memorial Day for only one day doesn’t make a lot of sense, but what if we see another storm day?” he said, adding that the district has not made any decisions yet on what it will do.

“The month of February is still in front of us, state tournaments could be coming up in March — for us to make any concrete decisions at this point I don’t think would be in the best interest of students or parents who try to make plans,” said Froke.

Although some community members criticized Detroit Lakes for calling school off last Wednesday when it didn’t appear too bad in town, there is a method to the call.

Froke is in touch with WDAY Meteorologist Daryl Richison, who gives him some insight on the conditions, the forecast and an hour by hour look at what they can expect.

“He’s been doing this a long time and has a really good feel as to what schools should do,” said Froke, who then also confers with his transportation director and business manager to make the final call.

Frazee-Vergas

In Frazee, storm days are handled a little differently. When making the academic calendar, the last day of school is planned a little earlier than many (this year May 20), with the knowledge that there is a good chance snow days will need to be made up and added to the end of the year.

Superintendent Terry Karger says Frazee has had four snow days so far this year, and the school board will likely require all four be made up after that.

“The thought here is, the days we have off during the calendar year, go ahead and make your plans, but don’t make any plans at the end of the year because we often have some days to make up,” said Karger, who says the district’s transportation director has drivers living all over the district who report the road conditions in the event of bad weather.

Lake Park-Audubon

Lake Park-Audubon students have missed five days of school so far this year, and according to Superintendent Dale Hogie, they’ll be making them all up.

There, teacher workshops are sprinkled throughout the school year, but those scheduled “days off” for students are the first things to go when there is a snow day to be made up.

This year, that means the teacher’s workshop initially set for Jan. 20 was postponed and students instead went to school to make up for the Dec. 5 storm cancellation.

The same will be true for the workshops scheduled for Feb. 17 and March 24. They are now school days. And instead of May 28 being the last day of school this year, as of now, it’s been pushed back to May 30 and teachers will make up their workshops after that.

Hogie says making up some of the days during the school year is what makes sense for the district.

“I think this is an easy way to understand  and people here have been accustomed to it,” said Hogie, “I think it’s not advantageous for us to extend our school year past Memorial Day, but it’s too hard to try to schedule in snow days because what do we do if we don’t get them? This system works for us.”

Hogie says along with help from his transportation director, who is typically out plowing snow at 3 a.m., he’s got a whole network of administrators from surrounding districts that he also consults with when deciding whether or not to call off or delay school. 

“After Doug Froke talks to Meteorologist Daryl Richison, he talks to me and other administration,” said Hogie. “So if snow and wind is coming in from the west, we’ll hear from Moorhead that yeah, they’re getting hit and it’s headed our way, and so we can prepare for that. It’s a whole, big network that we have established.”

Hogie says delaying school by two hours is also a great way to buy some time in figuring out exactly what the road conditions are, and if nothing else, gives travelers daylight.

Waubun-Ogema-White Earth

In Waubun, the administration is busy trying to figure out how to deal with the five snow days that district has had so far this year.

However, because the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School District already has more school days and hours scheduled into its year than the state requires, there is some wiggle room.

Out of the five snow days, students will only be making up three of them (while teachers make up the full five to fulfill contract obligations). That means students will be foregoing their “days off” on Feb. 17 (Presidents Day) and April 21 (Easter Monday) to make up those storm days.

Superintendent Brandon Lunak says they still haven’t determined when the third storm day will be made up, but they are looking at the possibility of the end of the school year.

“Otherwise, we could add time to the beginning or end of the school days to make up for that time as well, but I’d like to avoid that because it can get confusing for parents and kids to bring them in earlier, or if it’s later, then it cuts into after-school activities,” said Lunak. “So I’m not sure yet where we’re going to make this up yet, but I hear this pattern is supposed to continue into March – I’m hoping not.”

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