Policy Brief

Winter's Aftermath Includes Lost Time

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For many students in the East, the school year is coming up a bit short because of severe snowstorms this past winter.

In West Virginia, for example, none of the state’s 55 school districts reached the state-mandated 180 days of instruction.

“This is the first year in a decade that no school districts have actually made the 180-day [minimum],” said Liza Cordeiro, the executive director of the office of communications for the West Virginia education department.

Spurred by the recent bad winter, as well as other considerations, the law that required districts in the state to start the school year on or after Aug. 26 and end by June 8 has been changed to allow more flexibility in the calendar, Ms. Cordeiro said.

Around the country, the number of instructional days school districts must provide is set by each state and averages about 180 days.

“There are a number of states that have exceptions to [instructional time] requirements for inclement weather,” said Kathy Christie, the chief of staff for the Education Commission of the States, an education policy and research group based in Denver. Whether and why districts can apply for waivers for not meeting the minimum amount of instructional time also vary, she said.

Maryland school districts were allowed to apply for a waiver for up to five days because of inclement weather, said William Reinhard, a spokesman for that state’s department of education.

Virginia’s 173,600-student Fairfax County schools received a one-day waiver, said state education department spokesman Charles Pyle.

Some states that normally do not grant waivers for inclement weather ended up reconsidering. For example, the 163,000-student Philadelphia school district received a waiver for snow days this year, said Leah Harris, the deputy press secretary for Pennsylvania’s education department.

Generally speaking, [the department] does not grant waivers because of inclement weather, she said. However, because of the vast amount of snow that Pennsylvania got statewide this year in a short amount of time, we were making some exceptions to the 180-day requirement.

Vol. 29, Issue 35, Page 22

Published in Print: June 16, 2010, as Winter's Aftermath Includes Lost Time
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