• District will run out of attractive options to finish year; more school in June and Presidents Day eyed after four closings
by Aaron Brom
ECM Sun Newspapers
Lucky for St. Michael-Albertville Schools, the district ends school this year in May, as opposed to the traditional June ending.
Well, at least that was supposed to be the plan. Four school closings so far might end up amending the last school day to be in June.
At Elk River Schools, the school year is planned to end June 3. Now District 728 is keeping its fingers crossed that school won’t extend into the second week of June.
STMA Superintendent Jim Behle said one other option is to have school on the Monday after Easter, which is currently scheduled as a day off. The district cushions its schedule for snow or cold days, but those days have already been taken, all in January. Behle said he, the School Board and staff would come together and decide what’s next.
“We would have to look at making up a day,” Behle said. “What we would do – ultimately it’s a school board decision – is talk with the principals, get some staff feedback. Would we add a day to end of the year? Otherwise, we have Monday after Easter, right now it’s a day off. We might have to cancel that day off. We’ll have a conversation with the board and get some direction as to planning.”
School was again canceled Monday and Tuesday, Jan. 27 and 28, just a few weeks after school was closed Jan. 6 and 7 due to cold. Behle said wind chill and the potential for frostbite are the leading factors in making the decision to close.
“Whenever we get right around that 10 minutes (for frostbite to occur), then that’s an area where we start calling off school, or delay if the weather improves enough. It varies a little bit, but it’s in that range, talking about wind, when it’s going to fall into that 40 degree minus area.”
The STMA Activity Center was also closed, as were all district activities like varsity games. Behle said games will be made up, but not without tedious work to find alternative dates.
“It’s a nightmare,” he said of rescheduling.
Elk River Superintendent Mark Bezek said that even with four days closed this month, the district has one day’s worth of breathing room, but not for seniors. “The tricky part is seniors have 168 student contact days,” Bezek said. “They’re already minus a day, so we have to make that day up.”
The last day of school is scheduled for Tuesday, June 3, but Bezek said most likely the school year would be extended to June 4 and 5, at the least. Bezek said another possibility is to have school on Presidents Day, which is currently scheduled as a day off. That matter must be taken up with the teacher’s union, since it’s a contractual issue, he said.
“No one wants to go into that second week of June,” he said. “That’s what would happen if we have no other arrangements. We’ll be working with our labor groups about Presidents Day just to give us a cushion.”
In Rogers, District 728 already had a planned day off Monday, Jan. 27, for staff development. But then schools were closed Tuesday due to the cold. Rogers Activity Center Director Mike Bauer said the cold weather meant canceling planned school activities, some of which, like hockey, happen at the activity center.
“It’s been a headache,” Bauer said. “If we cancel a high school game, then we’re supposed to find a four and a half hour block to schedule. But our time has been scheduled for youth hockey and high school hockey. With teams playing Thursday and Saturday, it poses complications.”
On the other hand, he said public skating and open hockey are popular options when planned activities are canceled.
“When I get notice that school is closed, we generally add open hockey and open skating so they stay off outdoor rinks,” he said.
As for potential future school closings, Bauer said the center will be looking to fill open ice times as quickly as possible.
“As soon as I find out about schools closing, we post something on the city Facebook page saying ice is available,” he said.
Bezek said having no additional weather-related closings would help.
“We haven’t seen anything like this in years,” he said.