State allows schools to forgive snow days
It was without a doubt a historic year in Minnesota between the snow, high winds and as recently as last week, a thunderstorm during a winter storm.
One of the entities that had the biggest impact from the historic weather is schools across the state.
That’s what prompted lawmakers to come up with a bipartisan bill to help school districts who have racked up many snow and cold days this year.
The bipartisanship bill will allow local Minnesota school boards, by board resolution, to count snow days taken during the 2018-19 school year as regular school days for purposes of meeting the state’s school calendar requirement.
The bill was one that was compromised on after both the house and senate passed separate bills.
Senator Carla Nelson, from Rochester and the chair of the K-12 Education Committee, said that the number one priority is students’ safety.
“Our number one priority is student safety. While superintendents rightly prioritized the safety of students in cancelling school due to unprecedented winter weather circumstances, they faced a struggle to meet Minnesota’s calendar requirement,” said Nelson. “This bill gives local school boards the option to forgive days to ensure full and stable funding for their district, avoid the possibility of jail time for their superintendents, and prevent unreasonable scheduling disruptions for students and families,” she went on to state.
The bill also contains a provision that requires school districts who take the option of forgiving snow days to offer its hourly-paid employees and of contractors, such as bus companies, additional work hours or compensation to make them whole.
Nelson explained that this will help hourly employees from losing pay.
“This protects hourly employees and contractors from facing financial hardship by offering them additional work or compensation to make them whole,” Nelson said.
The “Snow Day Relief Act” only applies to days missed during the 2018-19 school year and allows local school boards to determine the number school days cancelled “due to health and safety concerns” they want to forgive, if any. It is also completely voluntary, meaning if a school district does not need the law or has already made calendar adjustments, they can ignore it in its entirety.
During the bill signing, Gov. Tim Walz, a former teacher for many years in Mankato, said that he is very proud that both sides of the aisle could come together to make the important bill happen.
“I am proud to sign a bipartisan bill so schools aren't penalized for snow or cold days,” Walz said.