BERRIEN SPRINGS — Members of the Berrien Springs school board are sticking by their decision to require district elementary students to come to school for an extra day despite action by the state legislature to give more “snow day” waivers.
Berrien Springs board members reiterated their intent to hold class on June 10 to make up one “snow day” initially not forgiven by the state. Members voted last month to add one day to the school calendar for elementary students.
While the entire district was closed nine days this year due to bad weather, Mars and Sylvester Elementary Schools were closed a 10th day because of a power outage. State law requires schools to be in session for 180 days and 1,090 hours every year, and normally forgives six “snow” days.
In normal years, school districts can request a waiver for three additional days. This winter’s bad weather and extreme cold temperatures led the state to not only offer the three day waiver, but also waive four more days just for this school year.
The issue came up at the end of Thursday’s school board meeting when a parent asked whether members had changed their minds about bringing students back for that extra day of class. She said afterwards that parents she has talked to say they’re worried about day care arrangements, and think having an extra day of school will be inconvenient.
Board members said they feel it is important to hold classes that day, regardless of the action in Lansing. “We’re holding classes regardless of the legislation,” Board Treasurer Eric Stoub said. Stoub last month called the new legislation “irresponsible” in allowing districts to get by with fewer days in the classroom this year.
Board President Peg Bormann agreed with Stoub. “We think it’s important to have classes that day,” she said.
Superintendent Dave Eichberg initially recommended last month that the district not make up the extra day for elementary students, even if it meant a net loss of $24,000 in state aid. Board members disagreed and voted to hold an extra day of classes for elementary students on June 10.
Eichberg reiterated Friday that the district has opted not to request a waiver to cover the one additional day of classes for elementary students.
Thursday’s board meeting was held in the Berrien Springs High School cafeteria and featured reports from high school students on their English, marketing, science and robotics projects.
In addition, resignations were accepted with regret from four staff members who are retiring at the end of the school year. High school teacher Tim Sunday is retiring after 36 years, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Coordinator Celeste Pauley after 34 years, middle school teacher Steven Swenson after 31 years, and middle school teacher Cindy Davis after 32 years.
Board members also held a first reading of several new and revised board policies and will act on them at their May 23 meeting. Board member Lee Davidson gave a short review of the policies that cover a variety of topics, including Open Meeting Act provisions, K-12 career education, substitute teacher rules and crowd funding.
Davidson reported that people with a high school diploma or the equivalent, plus a professional license or certificate in a specific subject area and two years of work experience, will be able to work as substitute teachers. He noted that it’s getting harder to get enough substitute teachers to fill the need.