Cold weather forces Waukesha School District to make up three days

Published on: 2/4/2014

The cold weather days that canceled classes across the district last month won't force schools to extend its calendar in June.

At least not yet.

However, the district has to make these days up on days that had been typically reserved as student-off days.

The district had just one weather day built into its schedule for weather-related cancellations, so after dangerous wind chills last week caused the district to once again shut down for two straight days, it now has to make up three days.

The district will now hold classes on Thursday, March 6 (which had previously been designated as a staff professional development day), Friday, March 7 (formerly a nonscheduled, no school day) and Friday, May 23 (formerly a staff professional development day).

"At this point (the Department of Public Instruction) has not given us a waiver from making these days up, so we have no choice on making them up," Gray told staff in an email. "We picked these days because we have already lost four days in this quarter and we need to try and balance days in each quarter as much as possible for curriculum and course considerations.

"Plus, two of the three days, staff would be here for staff development."

Gray said the district has one more "staff development day," scheduled for April 4 that the district could use if inclement weather forces another widespread cancellation.

"But we're certainly not out of the woods in terms of potential bad weather and there is a strong likelihood that more days may need to be made up this school year," Gray said. "We have had some very unexpected and unusual weather so far this year with historic temperature levels and a record number of cold days, with future predictions for lots of snow coming in February and March."

If that would be the case, Gray said adding any extra days to the end of the year would delay high school graduations by a full week and cause other year-end issues.

Gray said the DPI allows districts the option to use up to four Saturdays for makeup days as opposed to extending the school year. But the superintendent explained he does not want to go in that direction.

He added that regarding the makeup dates: "We understand that people have made trip plans during some of these days and we don't expect people to change those plans. If parents have a trip planned for those days, they can have their students excused like they normally would when they have a planned trip during other school days, without any academic penalty, other than making up any missed work.

"We will do our best to work with all situations, but again, we are experiencing some very unusual weather this year and we would ask for your understanding."

Gray said when the district shut down its schools on Jan. 27 it was the first time the district has closed for cold other than a wind chill warning. The City of Waukesha at the time was under a wind chill advisory.

Gray made the decision to close its schools at 4:30 a.m. that morning after having a conference call with all of the county's superintendents. The Waukesha County Sheriff's report on the morning road conditions was also a factor in the closing, Gray said.