Wisconsin is experiencing freezing temperatures once again this winter. Many schools, including Mineral Point, have elected to close school on one or more days this week, in addition to several days before and after the Winter Break. As a result, you may be wondering whether your school district will be able to meet the minimum number of school days and instructional hours required by the Wisconsin Statutes and enforced by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for the 2013-14 school year?
In fact, Mineral Point has already cancelled school on 5 occasions as permitted by statute and by your Board approved calendars and applicable policies. It is not enough to just count the days; the law also imposes a minimum number of instructional hours, which are separate from the number of school days and the minimum requirements related.
Therefore, it is necessary for the district to determine whether students in Mineral Point must make up school days and/or instructional hours in order to comply with the legal minimum requirements for the 2013-14 school year. There are two primary legal sources the district must follow.
The first is Wis. Stat. §115.01(10), which provides as follows:
(a) School days are days on which school is actually taught and the following days on which school is not taught:
1. Days on which school is closed by order of the school district administrator because of inclement weather and days on which parent-teacher conferences are held, not to exceed 5 days during the school term.
The second is Wis. Stat. §121.02(1)(f), which provides as follows:
1. Schedule at least 180 school days annually, less any days during which the state superintendent determines that school is not held or educational standards are not maintained as the result of a strike by school district employees.
2. Annually, schedule at least 437 hours of direct pupil instruction in kindergarten, at least 1,050 hours of direct pupil instruction in grades 1 to 6 and at least 1,137 hours of direct pupil instruction in grades 7 to 12. Scheduled hours under this subdivision include recess and time for pupils to transfer between classes but do not include the lunch period. A school board operating a 4-year-old kindergarten program may use up to 87.5 of the scheduled hours for outreach activities.
Additional information about the legal requirements related to school days and instructional hours may be found on DPI’s website at http://cal.dpi.wi.gov/cal_daysover
Mineral Point has closed schools five days due to inclement weather which is permissible be state statute. Furthermore, the district meets the minimum number of instructional hours required. An additional cancellation, however, will require the school district to make-up school days. If needed, the district is working on a plan now to make sure Mineral Point Schools has sufficient time to make up school days before the end of the 2013-14 school year. This may require that the district modify the 2013-14 calendar, which may include changing the plans for spring break or extending the end of the school year. If such modifications are required, Board policies must be followed before changing the calendar for the 2013-14 school year.
You may be hoping that DPI will recognize that the weather has had a significant impact on school districts during the 2013-14 school year and will consider granting waivers. Unfortunately, this is not likely to be the case. A DPI representative advised that, generally speaking, waivers would not be issued to school districts related to the weather closures. The DPI representative has never altered their position in the past and, at least as of today, DPI sees no reason to do so for the 2013-14 school year.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Please let me know if you have any questions or need any assistance.