ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota's education officials might have to ask lawmakers for a shorter school year after the frigid cold and blankets of snow forced many schools to cancel classes in recent weeks.
The Minnesota Department of Education and lobbying groups are surveying districts about how the last two weeks of extreme winter weather have affected class time totals, the Twin Cities Pioneer Press reported. A number of districts could fall short of the state requirement for days in session unless they schedule makeup days or add time to remaining days.
"Once we have a clearer picture of the situation, we'll be able to determine if legislation will be necessary," said Josh Collins, the department's spokesman.
St. Paul and Minneapolis school districts called off school for five days in the past two weeks because of bitterly cold temperatures or snow. The Stillwater district has already scheduled a makeup day for certain grades after cancelling class for four days this year.
A spokesman for Gov. Tim Walz has assured districts that they won't be punished for keeping students safe.
Minnesota law requires secondary schools to be in session for 165 days and 1,020 hours, while kindergarten through sixth grade generally have lower hourly minimums. But the governor and the state's Education Department cannot penalize schools for failing to meet the instructional hours statute because the law doesn't outline consequences, according to state officials.
"Statute doesn't give us authority to withhold funding or impose some kind of consequence on districts when it comes to instructional time," Collins said. "Like many other areas in a local control state, districts and charters are responsible to their communities for complying with statutes."
Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com
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