WASHINGTON – Making up for lost classroom time after a winter full of snow days could mean a shorter spring break and Memorial Day weekend.
In both Maryland and Virginia, school districts can reclaim federal holidays and scheduled time off to ensure they reach the state minimums for instruction during the school year.
Most school systems have taken more snow days than were built into their calendars. Now, they are trying to squeeze instructional time out of the existing schedule to make up the days. This usually means extending half days and turning administrative days into regular school days. But reclaiming holidays and vacation time is an option.
“Some other schools may look at using other holidays or teacher professional development days. Although these are important, we need our students in school in class preparing themselves for the following year,” says Bill Reinhard, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Education.
In both Maryland and Virginia, school systems can apply for a waiver from their state board of education so they don’t have to make up each snow day. But until those waivers are issued in a few weeks, most districts are deciding on contingency plans for making up the time.
An application for a waiver does not imply approval. School districts must prove that the educational needs of their students will be met despite the fewer learning hours.
“It’s not automatic. The local school board has to come to Richmond and demonstrate to the state board of education that it has done everything reasonably possible to make up enough of the time missed to meet the state minimums,” says Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education.
School days canceled during a state of emergency need to be made up in both Maryland and Virginia, both departments of education confirm.
“Snow emergency days are about highways they have nothing to do really with the 180 school day requirement, which many educators believe is a bare minimum of days,” Reinhard says.
Under both Maryland and Virginia law, schools are required to have 180 days of instructional time in the school year.
In Virginia, Fairfax County has 10 snow days in the books. It already converted two off-days into school days and added two onto the end of the year. There are no plans in the works to apply for a waiver, says district spokesman John Torre.
Alexandria students have had nine snow days this year. The district has employed the built-in makeup days and kids will be at school on those dates, says spokeswoman Kelly Alexander. But instead of tacking days onto the end of the year, the board approved that they can extend the school day if days need to be made up. That extension solution has not been implemented yet, Alexander say.
Loudoun County has taken 13 snow days, but has 15 built into the school year calendar. So the district doesn’t have to consider any make-up plans.
In Maryland, Montgomery County plans to add days on to the end of the school year. Students have gotten nine snow days, but only four were built into the school calendar. Barring a waiver from the state, spokesman Dana Tofig says the last day of school will be pushed back to June 19.
Prince George’s County will makeup three snow days at the end of the school year that weren’t previously built into the calendar. It has taken seven so far. Barring a state waiver, it will continue to add any make up days onto the end of the year, says district spokesman Max Pugh.
In Howard County, eight days have to be made up according to district spokeswoman Joan Fox. The district is looking at different options as to how they’ll make up the days but have not decided whether it’ll apply for a waiver from the state.
Kids in Anne Arundel County have enjoyed eight snow days. Only four were built into its calendar. Adding them onto the end of the school year will extend instruction to June 23. However, it plans to apply for a waiver from the state so that date could change, says school spokesperson Bob Mosier.
“The state wants you to wait until you’re reasonably sure you’ve used all the inclement weather days that you’re going to use and then request a single waiver for a school system,” says Bob Mosier, spokesman for Anne Arundel County schools.
The District canceled five days of school for snow. It’s extending half days into full days and is taking previously scheduled record days and converting them into instructional time, says district spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz.
Editor’s Note: WTOP reached out to multiple school districts in our listening area and haven’t heard back with the latest totals. This story will continue to update.