Cedar Rapids school board members to talk makeup days Feb. 24

Leaders want to discuss alternatives as school year stretches further into June

Published: February 19 2014 | 11:20 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:52 am in

Dave Benson, Cedar Rapids Community School District superintendent, has put the 2013-14 calendar back on the table.

Following a snow day on Feb. 17 – the district’s sixth cancellation this year – Benson has decided to add a discussion of the district’s options for future makeup days to the agenda for a work session on Monday, Feb. 24.

“I thought I ought to put it back for a public discussion with the board of what alternatives may exist, if any,” he said.

Feb. 17 was initially planned to be day off for students, but became a scheduled makeup day for the cancellation on Dec. 20. As a result of the heavy snow on Feb. 17, students and staff will attend class through Thursday, June 12. That leaves Friday, June 13 as the final potential designated makeup day on the district’s calendar, with a forecast of snow and high winds on Thursday, Feb. 20 – a school day.

“We still have up until spring break, the opportunity for winter storms,” Benson said in a conversation with The Gazette last week. “We can even get an April surprise in Iowa. That’s not unheard of.”

On Wednseday, Benson said he didn’t recall the Cedar Rapids district ever requiring more makeup days than scheduled on the calendar, which is why he wants to talk to the board members about the next step.

The agenda for the Monday, Feb. 24 board meeting and work session is set to be released Thursday. Benson said the calendar will be solely a discussion item, with action to follow at a later date. The board's next meeting is set for Monday, March 10.

“Ideally it would be the first meeting in March,” he said. “There’s just too many unknowns. We’re going to discuss it and bring it back.”

Benson had initially said he would discuss the calendar at the Monday, Feb. 24 meeting, but reversed that decision following communication from the Iowa Department of Education that no calendar exemptions or alternatives would be available for the district. Benson said he has not been in contact with department staff since those exchanges.

If a district uses all of its allocated makeup days and continues to have weather cancellations, students and staff are still required to make up those additional missed days. Jim Flansburg, interagency liaison for the Iowa Department of Education, said how administrators go about that is a local decision.

Benson said he is not advocating for or exploring any particular solution for rescheduling or adding further makeup days.

Options available to the Cedar Rapids district include extending classes to the third week in June or making part of spring break – Monday, March 24 through Friday, March 28 – into school days.

“It’s not stipulated as to how they have to add days,” Flansburg said. “Snow days cannot be predicted and, as such, districts are free to determine how to make up those days.”

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