EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
Landon Kurtz, first-grader in Melissa Henriksen’s class, makes a beeline down the snow hill Monday at Merryman Elementary School in Marinette.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard

Landon Kurtz, first-grader in Melissa Henriksen’s class, makes a beeline down the snow hill Monday at Merryman Elementary School in Marinette.

Much like everything else in the area recently, classes at local schools were frozen for over a week as a result of a polar vortex that slammed the Midwest with extremely cold temperatures. Students in Menominee, Marinette, Stephenson and Peshtigo schools have only been in class for a few days out of the last few weeks because of the extreme cold and icy road conditions.

Ron Kraft, the superintendent of Stephenson Area Public Schools, said that Stephenson schools, as well as all other Michigan schools, are required to plan for 180 days of instruction, but the State of Michigan allows six “Act of God” days, as he describes them, that are forgiven and don’t need to be made up. He also said that the schools also have 20 extra hours for potential delays and early dismissals should they need them. Kraft also said that Michigan schools were given three additional Act of God days after Governor Gretchen Whitmer declared a state of emergency in Michigan.

Right now, Kraft said that the plan in Stephenson is to add two days on to the end of the school year to make up for lost time. He doesn’t want to spend too much time thinking about what to do at the end of the year beyond that right now, though.

“If you spend too much time thinking about things that are out of your control, you drive yourself crazy,” Kraft said. 

Menominee’s superintendent John Mans said that, after the governor gave Michigan schools those three extra days, Menominee is getting close to using them up. He said that Menominee’s had about eight snow days so far, and should Menominee schools close today, those days would be completely used up.

The difference this time around, according to Mans, is that the storms have affected the Lower Peninsula as well. In the past, he said that this kind of weather hasn’t had much of an effect under the bridge and is just “part and parcel of being a Yooper.” However, Mans added that schools in the Lower Peninsula have had 15 snow days so far.

“So the legislature might do something this time around to help us out,” he said. 

Mans said that it might be possible to make up days throughout the rest of the year, possibly by shortening some vacation days. However, he said that the most likely option will be to add days to the end of the year. He said this could create some difficulty, as Michigan schools require that at least 75 percent of enrolled students be present, otherwise that day doesn’t count as an instructional day. After the 108 seniors leave in the spring and the flu comes around, he said that those days start to get “a little spooky.”

Marinette’s superintendent Wendy Dzurick wrote a brief letter to the families of the Marinette School District. In the letter, she said that Wisconsin schools are required to meet a set amount of instructional hours as opposed to a set number of days. She wrote, “Each year when designing the district calendar and setting school hours, additional instructional hours are built in to accommodate inclement weather hours.”

As a result, Dzurick wrote that beginning Monday, the middle school and high school will be adding minutes to their daily schedules.

“This will not impact the busing schedule,” she wrote. She said that the plan right now is to start high school classes five minutes early and add five minutes to the end of the middle school’s day.

She also wrote that the early release Thursday and the scheduled day off Friday were cancelled.

Patrick Rau, the superintendent of Peshtigo schools, said that Peshtigo has five or six days’ worth of extra instructional hours built into the schedule for inclement weather. He said that, as things currently stand, Peshtigo schools would be four hours short of their required instructional time.

Rau said that he would be going over potential options for how to make up the time with the high school and middle school staff next week. One option that he mentioned was to add five to seven minutes onto the instructional day starting Feb. 18.

Should more unfriendly weather hit the area again, Rau said that Peshtigo schools have planned early release days and teacher-only days that could be used to make up the time.