Shawnee Mission may have to adjust schedule to account for snow days — but precisely how remains to be seen

Seven times this year classes have been canceled on account of inclement weather, giving kids plenty of time to enjoy the snow. File photo.

Seven times so far this school year, the Shawnee Mission School District has canceled classes on account of inclement weather — and district officials are looking at whether and how to adjust the calendar accordingly.

The original 2018-19 school calendar approved by the board of education had the last day of classes for grades K-11 set for Thursday, May 23. The district built four extra days into the schedule as padding in case of inclement weather. That means Shawnee Mission would need to reconfigure its schedule to comply with state law, which requires a minimum of 1,116 hours at school for students in grades 1 through 11; 1,086 hours for students in grade 12; and 464 hours for students in kindergarten.

However, the state could grant districts a waiver for each pad day they have built into the calendar, so it’s possible they may not have to adjust the calendar.

Crews at work in January restoring power after Winter Storm Gia caused massive outages and led to the cancelation of classes at three elementary schools that didn’t have power.

How, exactly, the district would make up for the time lost to snow days, though, remains to be seen.

“It is definitely a question we have gotten, and not one that we have an answer to yet (particularly because we have no indication that we are done with weather events),” wrote Shawnee Mission Chief Communications Officer David Smith.

Smith said it was likely the board of education would take up the issue of the school calendar at its meeting Monday, “but as of now, we have not figured out yet what that will be.”

The situation is compounded at John Diemer, Brookridge and Tomahawk Elementaries, which had an eighth day of classes canceled because of power outages associated with Winter Storm Gia in January.

Tacking additional days on to the end of the school year would likely push the last day of classes past Memorial Day, which is Monday, May 27. There are strategies districts can take to avoid going beyond Memorial Day, though.

Earlier this month, the Blue Valley Board of Education voted to add instructional time to the school day starting Feb. 25 in hopes of putting “the district in the best position to meet state requirements and end the school year by Memorial Day, a long-standing priority of staff and families,” according to a statement released by the district. All Blue Valley schools will have an additional five minutes tacked on to the end of the school day starting Monday, and high schools will also add five minutes to the beginning of the school day.

However, Blue Valley officials said, there’s no guarantee that the additional instructional time added to the school day will keep their last day of school before Memorial Day.

“While the district is making adjustments now to address the unprecedented number of inclement weather days, the last day of school will not be announced until after Spring Break,” the district said.