Snow daze

(First published in the February 14, 2019 issue of City Pages)

No, kids won’t be in school through summer. But schools do have a problem making up all those off days


A snowplow pushes snow onto the median last Tuesday afternoon as Wausau was nailed with 15.7 inches of snow, and schools were canceled, again.

With an unprecedented number of school day cancellations this year, the Wausau and DC Everest school districts are getting creative to come with ways to meet mandatory instructional hours without stretching the school year into mid-June.

Last Tuesday’s snowfall dropped 15.7 inches on a Wausau area already inundated with snow and ice at the end of January. It also marked the Wausau School District’s sixth snow day of the school year—the most anyone can remember in recent years, says Wausau Superintendent Keith Hilts.

So now the district is drafting a plan for how to handle the additional days needed to complete the school year without extending classes into the second week of June.

As it stands June 6 is the last day, which includes using the built-in “buffer day” Friday, May 3. Those options to make up time could include adding extra minutes to the beginning of each day; changing half days in the district’s schedule to full days; and even replacing a professional development position with teachers and staff.

“The district will do what it can to avoid adding days at the end,” Hilts says.

School Board Member Tricia Zunker suggested, considering all the research that shows negative impacts on lack of sleep in children, that additional minutes should be tacked on at the end of the day, not the morning. Hilts says the district will consider that but that it could impact after-school activities and that the district was learning toward adding them in the beginning. “We will take that into consideration,” Hilts says.

D.C. Everest School District is adding two minutes to the end of each day to make up for the snow days, a member of Everest’s school board told City Pages. It will also use a cushion day in May, making it an official school day. DC Everest’s last day also is June 6.

Thom Hahn, Director of Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Integration for the Wausau district, says that in the future the district might employ online learning tools on snow days. But that wouldn’t work right now, because the district’s current online platform, WAVE, is only geared toward semester-long study, Hahn says. “In the future, we might see snow days replaced with digital learning days,” Hahn says.

Hilts says that’s a common request schools are making of the state, but no digital learning days have yet been approved by the state.