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How local schools plan to make up for lost snow days

(MyNorthwest photo)

The Northwest’s recent run of snowstorms has wrought havoc on streets, sidewalks, and pretty much anything in the realm of transportation. Also suffering, though, have been schools, forced to cancel a week or more of days, leaving students at home in the interim.

How will schools make up this time? KIRO Nights host Gee Scott chatted with Washington State Superintendent of Schools Chris Reykdal to find out.

RELATED: Melt-out continues, but frozen roads could be up next for region

“Here’s what we have to manage: The law says that every student in the state is entitled to about 1,000 hours of direct instruction and teaching time, and we can’t waive that; we can’t change that at all,” said Reykdal.

Reykdal noted that the second part of the law requires students to be in school for 180 days, a number that’s more flexible.

“We have the ability to grant waivers to school districts so that they don’t have to make up all of these days and still get their 1,000 teaching hours in, and that’s what each district is going to figure out,” he laid out.

To be exact, schools need to have 1,027 hours of teaching and learning every school year. A school with six-hour days will typically exceed that requirement, hitting around 1,080 hours if they have exactly 180 days.

That provides a degree of flexibility for unplanned snow days, but for a major run of storms like we’ve seen recently, there are still some issues to sort out.

“For districts that have four, five, six, seven days that they’re going to miss, we can waive a few of them,” said Reykdal. “But chances are they’re going to tack a few days on to the school year at the end.”

RELATED: Seattle works to get schools open with ‘Operation Shared Shovel’

Other alternatives include shaving days off of midwinter or spring break (a less likely outcome according to Reykdal), adding Saturday school days to the calendar, or most commonly, cutting into the front end of summer vacation.

Why schools have stayed closed post-melt-out

With snow coming to and end and beginning to melt on Tuesday, many were shocked when schools remained closed. While streets started to clear, students remained at home Wednesday.

“This was pretty significant, because what was normally multiple inches of snow and a day or two off has become 12 inches, 18 inches, a couple feet of snow — it’s taking longer for (schools) to get their buildings cleared,” said Reykdal.

More than that, while main arterials have been well-tended, side streets and school bus routes still have posed issues.

“It’s getting to the point where our municipalities are struggling to get side streets clear, and if side streets aren’t cleared, buses don’t run routes,” said Reykdal.

Schools have until 5 a.m. the day-of to make the call on closures. For now, the primary concern is icy roads and frigid overnight temperatures.

“I know folks are kind of worried about ‘why are they still suspending school?’” Reykdal said. “They’re worried about the overnight freeze, and all of this melt turning to ice. Some districts are going to continue to make the case that they’ll shut it all down.”

For the rest of the week, you can keep an eye on school closures here.

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