Snow days pile up

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:52 PM

After bundling up, Griffin students headed out for their first outdoor recess since returning from the recent string of snow days.

“It’s good to have the voices back and the smiles back,” said Principal Debra Mann.

Bone-chilling wind and slick roads prompted local officials to cancel school Friday, Monday and Tuesday.

Local schools have now used, or are close to using up, their allotment of snow days for the school year. Although the school year is scheduled to end June 6, additional snow days might mean some kind of extension.

As Griffin students climbed on top of a large snow mound on the school's playground on Wednesday, Mann cautioned them to be careful.

Mann said they monitor the temperature and wind chill before students go outside for recess. If the wind chill is below zero, they stay inside. When students head out, Mann said they check to make sure they're wearing boots, snow pants, coats, mittens and hats.

Prior to canceling school, Fruitport, Grand Haven and Spring Lake school officials assess road conditions, visibilities and temperatures. Fruitport Community Schools Superintendent Bob Szymoniak said they begin checking the road conditions between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m.

Grand Haven Area Public Schools Superintendent Keith Konarska said the decision to close school is made in cooperation with the state, county and local authorities.

“Sub-zero wind chills were definitely a factor the past two days, along with blowing and drifting snow making rural roads impassable for our buses,” Konarska said Wednesday.

Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton said visibilities and blowing snow were contributing factors for keeping students home for three days.

On Tuesday, Furton said that although Spring Lake Village did a great job keeping the roads and sidewalks clear, they “were working against themselves” as the large amount of snow from the roads was piled onto the sidewalks.

“We didn’t want to have kids walking to school in the roadway,” he said.

If schools exceed their snow-day limit and encroach on the state-mandated minimum of 173 school days, they will have to find ways to make up time.

Fruitport will use teacher "development" hours to get them up to the required 1,098 hours of school in order to qualify for state funding, Szymoniak said. If the district needs additional time, they will add days to the end of the school year.

Before Spring Lake students have extra days in June or see school days extend a few minutes, they can miss one more day.

Last year’s winter weather also caused local schools to utilize all of their allotted snow days. Grand Haven has now reached the limit again this year.

“Last year, we had to add minutes to each day beginning around spring break,” Konarska said.

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