‘Big Chill’ creates big headaches with Rockford school closings

With four days of canceled classes in January, the Rockford Board of Education had to make some adjustments to the 2013-14 academic calendar to meet the state required hours of instruction for the year.

At its work session on Feb. 3, the board changed Friday, March 7, to a student contact day. Previously, it was scheduled as a staff development work day. It also rescheduled the Jan. 27 parent-teacher conferences to Monday, Feb. 10.

Currently, Rockford High School seniors are not scheduled to attend classes from June 2 through June 5.  However, if additional school cancellations bring their attendance days below the state requirements, seniors will be required to attend classes starting with June 2, and beyond as needed.

The state requires 935 hours of instruction for elementary students and 1,020 hours for middle and high-school children every year. That generally translates into 165 days of instruction, depending on the length of each day. Most Minnesota schools schedule between 172 and 175 days, which gives some wiggle room when it comes to school closures. The Rockford district schedules 174 student days.

“This year, our district has a unique set of circumstances, due in part to extreme weather and also due to major construction projects on our grounds and in our buildings,” Superintendent Paul Durand said. “However, our student’s educational needs, safety requirements and Minnesota statutes are all considered when making emergency closing decisions.”

Last school year, the Rockford Area School District canceled classes for a total of three days (in March and April). In the previous two school years, only one school cancellation per year was called.