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School Officials May Have to Get Creative About Snow Days

Boston Public Schools have used up the year's five snow days. If storms close schools again, officials may have to shorten vacations or extend the school year.

There’s only a little more than a month to go until the first day of spring. But that’s still plenty of time for snow to fall and force Boston Public Schools officials to change this year’s academic calendar.

State law requires that schools be in session for 180 days in a school year and provide students with a certain number of learning hours, depending on their grade.

As a precaution, schools insert five extra days in the academic calendar in case inclement weather or another emergency calls for cancelations. This year, those five extra days have already been used up. The last day of classes has been bumped from June 21 to June 28.

If the city is hit with another big storm, and the district is closed for another two days, officials will have to get creative about making up the lost hours.

The state’s Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester wrote in a letter to superintendents and charter school leaders recently that he would not grant school districts waivers to the 180-hour requirement.

Instead, Chester suggested that districts compensate for missed days by canceling or shortening February or April vacations, turning professional development days into school days, having school on Saturday or Good Friday or extending the school year. 

Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson hasn’t decided how schools would make up snow days if they had to, spokesman Matthew Wilder said. Wilder said that because the February recess was drawing close, the superintendent wouldn’t shorten it even if inclement weather caused school closings between now and then. Nor has the superintendent contacted parents about canceling or shortening the April recess, Wilder said.

To ensure that students spend enough time in class, Commissioner Chester suggested that schools hold the first day of class before Labor Day, have a one-week spring vacation in March and tell teachers, students and parents that springs vacations might be canceled or shortened to make up for school days missed because of inclement weather. 

In Boston, schools could hold classes June 29 and June 30 and remain in compliance with the Boston Teachers Union contract, according to Gretchen O’Neill, Boston Public Schools communications officer. However, the contract prohibits schools from extending the school year into July. 

Schools must follow the following time-sensitive guidelines for making up school days or receiving a waiver, according to the commissioner’s letter.

  • If an emergency happens between the beginning of the school year and March 31, the school must reschedule full school days to meet the 180-day requirement.
  • If an emergency happens between April 1 and June 1, schools must make up days either until they reach the 180-day requirement or the 185 scheduled day. But if a school has used all five of its snow days before April 1 it does not have to make up days lost to emergencies between then and June 1.
  • Schools do not have to make up days for any emergencies that happen after that period.  

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