School Leaders Want To Change Laws On Makeup Snow Days

Officials will begin lobbying legislators in coming weeks

FARMINGTON — Northwest Arkansas school superintendents want the Arkansas Legislature to give them flexibility to make up instruction time lost when classes are canceled because of inclement weather.

At A Glance

School Operations

Arkansas law requires students to be in class at least six hours a day for 178 days. School districts are required to make up days lost to inclement weather. Districts can apply to the Arkansas State Board of Education for a waiver to avoid making up days, but the board has been reluctant to approve requests. Teachers have to vote on mid-year changes to their contracts, such as changed work days, according to state law.

Source: Staff Report

Meeting as the Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative board of directors, the superintendents plan to start lobbying legislators to allow districts to add minutes to the school day.

Districts have lost between eight and 12 days of instruction in December and January that have to be made up.

Robert Allen, superintendent at Huntsville, and John Karnes, West Fork superintendent, said school was canceled for 12 days in those districts. Larger districts, like Fayetteville and Bentonville, were out eight days.

Superintendent Mike Poore of Bentonville brought the issue to the meeting Thursday.

If his district added 20 minutes to the school day, Bentonville could easily make up the time without adding days at the end of the school year, Poore said.

The proposal could be well received among some legislators. Rep. David Whitaker, D-Fayetteville, said he favors giving superintendents and districts more flexibility in many operational issues. “We don’t need to micromanage school districts out of Little Rock,” he said.

Sen. Uvalde Lindsey, D-Fayetteville, said he needs to see how such a proposal affects teachers, their lesson plans and their contracts before deciding. “I will look at it,” he said.

Rep. Debra Hobbs, R-Rogers, said, “It makes a lot of sense.” Such a proposal would save money on transportation costs and school could still be released on the scheduled date.

Karnes said making up snow days becomes an economic issue, particularly when support staff members are scheduled to work a Saturday. The district would have to pay those workers overtime.

Karnes said teachers in West Fork cut short the holiday break and worked Jan. 2 and 3 rather than returning to school Jan. 6 as originally scheduled.

“That keeps us out of the second week in June,” Karnes said. “Our last day is June 5.”

Gravette Superintendent Richard Page suggested starting school Aug. 15 as a possible solution. State law sets the start date at Aug. 19 unless it falls on a Saturday or Sunday. Only schools operating on a continuous learning calendar can start before Aug. 19.