Dearborn Students to Return to School Thursday

Starting 2014 with three consecutive snow days has some wondering whether the district will have to add days in the summer.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.
Dearborn Public Schools canceled classes for three consecutive days this week because of the extreme cold and unsafe road conditions. 

But the extended winter break couldn't last forever, and all Dearborn schools will be open on Thursday.

"It's the decision that superintendents hate to make the most," said David Mustonen, communications coordinator for Dearborn Public Schools. "With 19,000 students, which is almost 40,000 parents, half of them are going to be mad at you and the other half are going to praise what you did."

Starting 2014 with multiple snow days in a row has some wondering whether the district will have to add days in the summer. But with so many other ways to make up lost hours, that's not a huge concern for the Dearborn School District, Mustonen said.

"If we don’t have enough hours than we’ll make those hours up," he said. "Whether it be we eliminate some late-start dates, or we go an extra day, or we find another day in the calendar where we can make up those hours, we’ll figure that out."

The State of Michigan requires all districts to provide 1,098 instructional hours over 170 days, and allows 30 hours — or five days — for snow days. 

Still, Mustonen said, that number can vary based upon the calendar that’s determined through union negotiations, and there's also usually a day or so of extra hours each year that can be used towards snow days.

Nevertheless, even if the district were to exceed its allotted snow days for the year, safety is the most important factor in determining whether or not the schools should close, he said.

"We're looking at the passability of side streets for our buses; the ability for students to safely walk to school; how are the road conditions throughout the entire area because of staff coming in," Mustonen said. "All of those kinds of things are weighed out."

Previously, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation allowing schools with too many snow days to avoid having to schedule extra days in the summer.

According to Public Act 29 of 2013, school districts that weren't open at least 170 days could continue receiving state funding, as long as they still met the 1,098-hour minimum, which meant school districts that had more than six snow days could hold longer days for the remainder of the school year instead of adding days.

The law only applied only to the 2012-2013 school year. It would take another act of the legislature for such flexibility to be available during the 2013-2014 school year. 

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to specify that Public Act 29 applies to the 2012-2013 school year.


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