Schools readjust calendar after closures

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The Whitefish School Board recently voted to deem Sept. 14 an emergency school closure day after cyber-threats made against area schools canceled three school days across the Flathead Valley last month.

Whitefish students stayed home Sept. 14, 15 and 18 due to the threats, missing three students instructional days and forcing the board the shift around the school calendar.

“We are required to meet a minimum number of aggregate hours in order to meet accreditation standards for the state for grades 4-12 — that number of hours is 1,080,” Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt said during the Oct. 10 board meeting. “The superintendents around the Valley have been in contact with the Office of Public Instruction to see what some options are — is there any flexibility based on unusual circumstances — and there is no flexibility.”

To make up for those days, the board voted to use the lone emergency day in its calendar for Sept. 14 rather than April 23, which had previously been scheduled as a snow makeup day. It also deemed Sept. 18 a Pupil Instruction Related day, making Jan. 15 a full instructional day. Pupil Instruction Related days generally involve instructional and professional development meetings for school or other appropriate in-service training.

“We do realize [Jan. 15] is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but we feel like these are exceptional circumstances and we’d like to use that day to make up some lost instructional time,” Davis Schmidt said.

Trustee Shannon Hanson cast the lone opposing vote.

Furthermore, all snow day makeup time will be pushed back to the end of the school year. If every snow day in the current calendar is used, students will finish school with full school days on Thursday, June 7 and Friday, June 8 and a half day on Saturday, June 9.

Davis Schmidt said having the last day of school on a weekend is only a last resort situation.

“Those are in case we need to use two snow make up days,” she said.

Davis Schmidt and Trustee Anna Deese said changing spring break dates to make up for lost time was considered, but that could be problematic if families already have set plans for the break.

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