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Snow removal crews clear the parking lot Thursday at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway depot in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams
Snow removal crews clear the parking lot Thursday at the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway depot in Willmar. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

School Board will discuss how to make up snow days at Feb. 10 meeting

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR — Willmar’s schools were closed Thursday, the sixth time this month that weather has closed schools for the district’s 4,100 students.

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Closing school was not something Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard wanted to do, but snow and wind made driving conditions treacherous Thursday morning, he said. The district always sets its calendar with the understanding that school will be held on some planned days off to make up for snow days.

Secondary students already attended school on Martin Luther King Day, which had been designated for teaching staff development. Students will also be going to school on Presidents Day and on May 2.

Kjergaard said Thursday afternoon that he doesn’t know how the rest of the days will be made up.

The Willmar School Board will look at options at its Feb. 10 meeting, he said.

The administrative staff will be looking at a variety of alternatives, so that the board can consider options, he said. Some options could include longer school days, going to school on spring break and Good Friday and adding days in June.

“We’ll work hard at trying to do what’s right,” he said.

The state law requires school districts to provide a minimum number of hours of instruction in a school year — 850 hours for all-day kindergarten students, 937 hours for grades 1-6 and 1,020 hours for grades 7-12.

The law requires districts to provide at least 165 days of instruction, except in districts with four-day weeks, but the number of hours is most important.

Kjergaard said school officials are also concerned because it’s not February yet, and the snow days are adding up quickly.

“I’ve never had a year like this,” he said. In 2013, weather closed Willmar schools two days in February, two days in March and one day in April.

On Thursday morning, he first talked to Willmar Bus Service owner Ken Inselmann at 5 a.m., and they decided to run buses and open school two hours late. Inselmann and several of his employees drove out in different directions to gauge the condition of the roads.

In the morning, the snow was deep and drifting, and roads weren’t plowed yet.

Kjergaard said he spoke with Inselmann again at 7 a.m. and every half hour after that to get updated reports. He also had conversations with superintendents in other districts, and “our snow was different from theirs.”

In his conversations with other districts, he said, it sounded as though the Willmar area got more snow and had worse road conditions.

“I kept saying to Ken, it can’t be that bad,” he said, but reports from the bus service didn’t improve. “It was a really, really bad day,” Kjergaard said.

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I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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