Opinion Matters

With Gazette Opinion Editor Greg Peck

How many snow days should school calendars have?

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Greg Peck
Thursday, January 30, 2014

Janesville School Board member Bill Sodemann voiced my sentiments at Tuesday's meeting. He suggested the board consider adding more snow days in the school calendar.

“I don't understand why we aren't going to learn from mistakes and fix the calendar in the future,” he said in Wednesday's Gazette story.


In a phone call today, Sodemann explained that his idea would be to give students two fewer days off around parent-teacher conferences. That could pad the number of snow days without stretching the overall school calendar.

After all, this is Wisconsin. Having just one “snow day” in a school calendar seems like shortchanging our winter weather. Janesville, like most districts, has canceled classes four days this month because of subzero temperatures. The nasty weather might not be behind us. After all, weeks of winter remain. Already, the Janesville board is trying to figure out how best to fit in those lost days. The last day of the calendar was set for Thursday, June 5. Board members are considering extending school until Monday, June 9, shortening spring break and having kids attend classes during a day set aside for parent-teacher conferences. Those first two options don't help families that have planned vacations.

We've been here before. In the 2007-08 school year, Janesville canceled classes three times. It made up two days with Saturday classes. The Saturday sessions were poorly attended, as you might expect. The makeup days were shortened, too, and their educational value was likely poor as well.

Don't think, however, that winters like that one and this one are that common in this neck of the Badger State. I went to our archives, and here is what I learned. Back in 2007-08, then-Superintendent Tom Evert said he wasn't inclined to build more snow days into the district's schedule because that was the first time Janesville had three days off in a school year for at least 34 years. Janesville had only one or no snow days most years in those decades, and even having two was unusual.

So what do you think? Given that track record, should the district build more snow days into its schedule or just deal with it as the unusual winter blasts occur?

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook.

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