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Schools brace for more closings next week

Published On: Jan 24 2014 06:32:49 AM CST   Updated On: Jan 25 2014 01:59:40 PM CST
SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. -

With forecasts well below zero in the coming week, school districts are bracing for more closings.

Sun Prairie Assistant Superintendent Alice Murphy is in charge of counting the days, hours, and even minutes when kids are in class. 

“If it seems as though we're being a little bit strict about five minutes here and add five minutes there, it's with good reason,” Murphy said.

The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) requires that students have at least 175 scheduled days of instruction.  There are also mandates for the number of classroom hours grade levels must have.

Two of the district’s “flex” days were already used when freezing temperatures swept across the region earlier this month.  Murphy said last year’s cancellations were difficult, but no changes were made to brace for another bad winter with more than normal cancellations.

“Believe me, last year we had serious conversations at the administrative level looking at all of the alternatives and what seemed to be the best,” Murphy explained.

One of those options, Murphy said, might be implemented next year.

“We're looking at building in a day that just gives us that flexible day, just hanging out on a Friday that if we don't need to be in session, we'll use it for professional development,” Murphy said, “but if we do need to be in session, there's a day that we could give up a little more easily.”

It’s too late to pencil in an extra day this year, which means Sun Prairie will have to find a way to make up for any time lost to Mother Nature.

“Is it going to be in June?  Is it going to come from spring break?  And those are the tough discussions that we need to have,” Murphy said.

On top of that, elementary schools in Sun Prairie are already behind on the instruction time, and principals are talking about starting class a few minutes earlier later on this year to make up for that.

Perry Hibner with the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District said this is not a typical winter for the district.

“Normally at this time of year, we're not sitting in a position where we're worried if we have another day off either because of cold or snow that we're going to have to make it up,” Hibner said.

Hibner said if it came down to making up full days, the district would most likely tack on days to the end of the school year rather than take them away from spring break.

Hibner said there is a way to apply to the DPI for a waiver on the minimum number of school days required.  He added that the district is more prone to cancel school than delay arrivals, but everything is a possibility in this kind of situation.

“We think it’s a bigger inconvenience to do the two-hour delay or one-hour delay.  On the other hand, again, when you get to this point where here you are only in late January and we're already at that minimum number because of the way winter has been,” Hibner explained.  “It's been a tough winter on everybody.  I think you kind of say all cards are on the table and we'll make it a case by case basis.”

For more information on school day and hour requirements, visit http://cal.dpi.wi.gov/cal_daysq%26amp%3Ba

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