The Eau Claire school board moved at its Monday night meeting to add three additional days to the district’s academic calendar in order to make up for inclement weather days.
Elementary and middle school students are now required to attend school on Thursday, and all students will be required to attend school on Monday and June 7. School was not originally scheduled on these dates.
Because the option left additional needed instructional minutes for high school students, the district will also be looking into cutting lunch time and additional non-instructional time.
The original district calendar had allotted for five inclement weather days. But because of the extreme cold, snowy and icy conditions the Eau Claire area has faced in the past three weeks, the district has closed for seven days and had two delayed start days that have contributed to lost instructional minutes.
Two days were not able to be absorbed, as well as the two delayed start days, creating the need for 2½ additional days of school.
“We’ve had a very unusual and out of the ordinary winter, as you can see by this chart,” schools Superintendent Mary Ann Hardebeck said, gesturing a slide showing the missed school days. “I know it’s a very difficult decision to be made, but it must be made.”
The board’s decision, which came after more than an hour of discussion, also forces the district to cancel elementary school conferences, which were originally scheduled for Friday.
Board members Lori Bica and Chris Hambuch-Boyle voted against adding school on Friday because it resulted in the canceling of conferences.
“It’s such an important piece,” Hambuch-Boyle told the board. “Sitting down with parents is such a critical time. I’d have a hard time (voting yes on this motion) on this short of notice.”
The board considered four options to fulfill the missed instructional minutes, electing to select none of them in their original form.
The first option was to re-purpose non-student days within the existing academic calendar to instructional days. Those dates originally proposed included Thursday, Feb. 21, Friday, Feb. 22, Monday, Feb. 25 and Friday, June 7.
In the case that school be canceled again, the district would next propose holding classes on May 17, according to meeting materials.
Hardebeck said during her Monday presentation that the benefits of the option include: recovering full days of instruction — especially prior to AP and other high stakes assessments — as well as the district’s summer school program remaining in tact and families end up being impacted by fewer days overall.
This option also would not cost the district additional transportation costs.
The second and third options were to extend school days between March 1 and June 6, either by 17 minutes per day or 30 minutes. Adding 17 minutes to each day would not allow a cushion in the case of further inclement weather days, Hardebeck said, but 30 minutes would create a cushion.
Those additional minutes would need to be made up before school due to transportation feasibility, Hardebeck said. Additional costs for transportation for this option were estimated at more than $70,000, plus an additional $90,000 to $180,000 in overtime compensation for hourly school employees.
Hardebeck also noted adding time to the school day may negatively impact students who have part-time jobs and other commitments before and after school.
The fourth option the board considered was to maintain the current academic calendar and extends the school year to June 11. In the case that inclement weather forced the district to miss further instructional minutes, that date would be extended again.
This option, Hardebeck told the board, would impact summer school and other summer community programs scheduled to begin June 11. It would also impact families who have already-scheduled vacations.
“No matter what we do somebody is going to be inconvenienced,” board President Joe Luginbill said during the discussion. “But we have to do it.”