Schools Consider Applying For Reprieve From Making Up Snow Days

At least two school districts in Northwest Arkansas are considering petitioning the state for a waiver to keep them from having to make up all of the school days lost to winter weather.

Administrators from Bentonville and Fayetteville said they will consider alternatives before applying for a waiver, but that they are open to the option.

Local school districts called off classes Wednesday, marking the third lost school day this week and the 11th of the school year for many area schools. The districts have had to dig into Saturdays and holidays to make up the snow days, with Springdale administrators announcing earlier this week they would hold classes for two of the days that had been designated as part of Spring Break.

But a state provision allows school districts to apply for a waiver from the Arkansas Department of Education, which would allow administrators, under certain circumstances, to drop the snow days without having to make them up later.

Bentonville Supt. Michael Poore said because of the district’s 11 snow days, he is considering applying for the waiver. This winter has been an especially taxing time for the superintendent.

“We are done. We are over it. We would love to be back doing the things we really want to spend time on,” Poore said. “I don’t want to be a weather forecaster. I don’t want to be driving routes everyday trying to figure out whether we can go or not.

Fayetteville schools spokesman Alan Wilbourn said his school district is also considering applying for a waiver, but administrators there already applied for a waiver, in 2011, and had it denied by the state.

“Just because you ask for it doesn’t necessarily mean that is going to get granted,” Wilbourn said. “It’s usually for situations where those school districts in 2011 that had many more than 10 days, like 17 to 20 in rural areas where they missed a great number of days of school.”

To be approved for a waiver, school districts must show they have taken every chance to make up lost school days, including scheduling classes on Saturdays, Spring Break, holidays and adding days to the end of the school year calendar.

“If you haven’t done that, the state has traditionally not approved the waiver,” Poore said.

Officials from Bentonville and Fayetteville both say they will continue to examine all of their options to deal with the winter weather’s effect on local schools. Administrators in Springdale and Rogers have not said whether they would consider applying for a state waiver from making up snow days.

Students in Arkansas are required to attend school 178 days per year.