By Megan Kelley
After an abundance of canceled school days, it is clear that Lake Orion students will have some days to make up at some point during the school year.
As of now, Lake Orion Community Schools has canceled school 11 times. The only exception being Carpenter Elementary that, due to building issues, have missed an additional three days, putting their total number of canceled school days at 14.
The board discussed the situation at their last board meeting on Feb. 13.
The district automatically is allotted six canceled school days. This puts Lake Orion with five extra days (eight days for Carpenter), according to Superintendent Marion Ginopolis. However, the district can file a waiver with the state superintendent to possibly acquire an additional three days. That would put Lake Orion at two days (Carpenter at five) over the maximum number of allotted canceled school days.
“Applying for a waiver sounds like, ‘oh, everyone is going to get it,’ but that is not the case,” said Ginopolis.
“There are a few things in the waiver that make it difficult for waivers to be granted,” said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Rick Arnett. “The state in the past has not been very receptive to granting many districts (the waiver) in northern Michigan and the UP (upper peninsula). One of the keys is; you have to demonstrate that there is a reason why you cannot make up those days at the end of the year. And saying that we don’t want to go to school in June or toward the end of June probably is not a viable reason for us not to come to school. Now we have some thoughts on some other things, and some bond projects might come into play because of the construction timeline, so that’s a rationale we intend to use.”
As snow days began to pile up, speculation circled about the state of emergency that Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared in January as a response to the extreme temperatures that were plaguing the midwest. It was rumored that Whitmer would forgive the two school days that were canceled during that state of emergency.
That is false. Governor Whitmer does not grant additional days for districts to cancel school. All added days have to come through the state superintendent of schools, according to Arnett and Ginopolis.
“From a school district standpoint, what we don’t want to do is get people excited about the fact that these three days are going to be an automatic waiver, that’s furthest from the truth,” said Arnett. “There are rumors of certain legislatures introducing legislation to forgive those three days automatically. Is that a possibility? Sure. You know how legislation works though, sometimes it takes a long time to pass something through. Other times, as we saw in (the) Lame Duck (session), if they want it bad enough they can push it through in a matter of days.”
“What we have to go on right now is planning for the fact that truly we have five days to make up. Pending a waiver request and approval of the waiver,” Arnett said. “I don’t think we want to get people overly excited that we’ll automatically get this waiver because there is no automatic.”
According to Ginopolis, Lake Orion is not alone in their abundance of canceled school days. As of Feb. 13, Brandon has used 12, Clarkston 11, Holly 13, Huron Valley 10, Oxford 9, Pontiac 8, Rochester 8 and Waterford 10.
“I don’t want anyone feeling that we’ll have two to make up. Let’s plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Ginopolis said.
Arnett added that the district must meet two different criteria: days of instruction and hours of instruction.
For days of instruction, all K-8 grades must have 180 days of instruction and grades 9-12 must have 181 days of instruction.
“A day of instruction means the students show up. If we have school in session, it doesn’t matter if it’s a half-day, a quarter of a day or a full day, a day is a day,” Arnett said. “One-half is still equal to one.”
For hours of instruction, the district must have 1,098 hours per year. The high school, however, has budgeted an extra 10 hours of instruction.
“When it comes to the make-up time we can look at days of instruction and hours of instruction and combine the two,” said Arnett. “So, there’s potential that some of those days that we do need to make up, some may or may not look like half days. There are a lot of opportunities for us to look at how we couch that.”
Arnett and Ginopolis both stressed that they are not “out of the woods” yet and that there is still plenty of potential for additional days to be canceled.
Ginopolis also added that rumors circling around on Facebook and other social media regarding snow days are often inaccurate and stated that instead of listening to “armchair educators” people should contact the district directly with any questions or concerns that they might have.
Moving into this week, on Feb. 25 Carpenter reached their current number of canceled school days (14) after a down power line left the building without power.
Also on Feb. 25, Ginopolis issued an update regarding make-up days to the community through the district website.
“We are currently planning to have school the full week of June 17-21, the five days following the previously scheduled end of the school year,” Ginopolis wrote. “For Carpenter Elementary, which lost two days to building flooding and one to today’s power outage, the final date would come the following week after three additional days for those students, on June 24-26.”
This solution still depends on the status of the “additional forgiven time waiver,” if any legislation passes regarding any automatically forgiven days and if the district has to cancel school again between now and the end of the year.
For additional information on delays, closings and make-up days visit the district website at www.lakeorionschools.org/district/delays-and-closings or contact the district directly at 248-693-5400.