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Snow days pile up. Here's how School Board plans to get students back on track

Hastings Public Schools district office is surrounded by snow from recent days. David Clarey / RiverTown Multimedia

Snow has piled on for the last two weeks and so have snow days at Hastings schools. Now school officials are trying to find ways to make up time in the classroom.

Since Jan. 28, Hastings Superintendent Tim Collins has called off school seven times due to freezing temperatures in late January and heavy snowfall in February. While there is little penalty for missing the days, Collins and other officials are scheduling school on Feb. 18, which was a nonschool day in recognition of President's Day. The Hastings School Board is planning to vote on two more days to bring back as well.

"This is by far the most snow days that in my tenure we've had," Collins said.

It's the most days Collins has cancelled in his 16 years on the job and it's a new high after missing school four days due to weather last year, he said. The School Board is now looking at holding school on April 22, the day after Easter, and on March 1, which was scheduled off for parent-teacher conferences, he said.

While Minnesota issues guidelines on the number of minutes most students should attend, there isn't a financial penalty for failing to meet those, Collins said. However, for kindergarteners on an individual education plan, extended and summer school hours and alternative learning programs, the state does set a mandated number of hours.

If the school district doesn't meet it, there is a loss of funding per student, but he said the numbers of students in each are low and it would be a small financial loss.

If the district brings back three days, it will likely hit the required hours, pending no other snow days, Collins said.

The School Board will likely approve those days, unless there is a "different feel from the community," said Dave Pemble, a Hastings School Board member.

"We're going to proceed ahead with one day and probably look at how the weather goes," Pemble said. "I think the community, the family understands."

He said it's particularly tough on seniors who already have a shorter school year and are preparing for jobs or post-secondary education.

In most years, the district could look at extending the year, but planned end-of-year construction at the middle school makes that impossible for those students, Collins said.

Collins said it is difficult to bring back days when staff and families have scheduled vacation and other trips surrounding holidays.

"It's really hard to bring days back, because every day off is off with a purpose," Collins said.

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