BERRIEN SPRINGS — Whether or not to make up snow days proved to be somewhat controversial at Thursday night’s Berrien Springs Board of Education meeting. Board members ended up deciding to add one day of school for elementary students in June.
Superintendent Dave Eichberg recommended against making up the extra day that wasn’t covered by snow day waivers approved by the state legislature earlier this year. He noted that the district’s two elementary schools were closed one day last October due to a power outage, which didn’t affect the middle and high schools.
He told board members that the district would lose a net amount of around $24,000 by not bringing elementary school students back for one day of school on Monday, June 10. He said the state aid penalty would be around $34,000, which would be offset by saving transportation and other expenses of $10,000.
Eichberg noted that the district could hold classes that day and end up not having enough students attend to get state aid. He added that the state legislature is currently considering a bill that would grant schools a waiver of an additional five days when a statewide state of emergency is declared.
Board members had a different take on the issue. “This is the most irresponsible thing I’ve heard,” Board Treasurer Eric Stoub said in reference to the proposed state legislation adding another five-day waiver. “I think we should be in school all days we have to be and not take a waiver.”
“At first I thought it was cool getting a waiver for more days, but then I started thinking that the kids ought to be in school,” he said. “This is astounding to me. This is incredibly irresponsible for the state to do. ... We’re in the business of education, we should educate all the days we can.”
Board Vice President Paul Toliver said he thought not rescheduling the one make-up day would send the wrong message to students. Trustee Sarah O’Dell agreed, “silly as it seems, I’d send my kid to school that day.”
“It’s not about the money, I think it sends the best message to have the elementary kids come in that extra day,” Board President Peg Bormann said.
In other action, board members voted to raise the dollar amount on senior excellence scholarships. The district has been awarding scholarships to the top five seniors for the last 20 years, with the top student getting $1,000 and the other four each getting $100.
Board members ended up raising the dollar amount to $2,500 for the top student and $500 each for the other four.
Retirements were accepted from longtime teachers John Donley and Iris Vergara. Donley has taught for 36 years and Vergara for 41 years in the district.