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Snow day to be made up on Good Friday for students in Willmar

WILLMAR -- Students in Willmar Public Schools will go to school for a partial day on Good Friday.

The Willmar School Board voted to have school on Good Friday, with the blessing of the local Ministerial Association, to make up one of three snow days remaining from the past winter.

The snow days resulted in lost class time and also in the loss of some staff developm-ent/training time.

The April 22 Good Friday school day will end two hours earlier than normal for students and staff.

In addition, teachers and other employees will work two extra days, on June 6 and 7, to make up for the remainer of the snow days.

Board members arrived at that plan after a lengthy discussion.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard had proposed extending the school year for students and staff for three days, June 6, 7 and 8.

"To be honest with you, I think that's my role," he said. "I need to recommend that to you." He said he sees himself as the "protector of the calendar" and feels he is charged with making sure students receive their full number of instruction days.

Several board members were skeptical of how productive those last three days would have been.

"It would be my expectation that teachers would deliver instruction that's meaningful to kids," Kjergaard said.

"And I would expect no less from our staff," board member Mike Reynolds said, but he and others continued to question whether students would benefit from the extra days in June.

Kjergaard has proposed two other options. One was to have students in school on April 29, the day of the high school prom, and have staff development days on June 6 and 7. The other was to have students attend school on Good Friday and prom day, with two hour early dismissals on both days, and a staff development day on June 6.

It is highly unusual for public or private schools in Minnesota to be in session on a major Christian occasion like Good Friday. Kjergaard said the Ministerial Association was understanding about the need to make up snow days and said school on Good Friday was OK, "as long as we didn't make a practice of it."

A number of possibilities were discussed, from letting the students off the hook for all three days to having school on both Good Friday and prom day to get in two more days of school.

Reynolds said it may be time for the board to look at moving the prom to Saturday night rather than the current Friday night.

Board member Eric Roberts said some teachers told him that they would appreciate having more staff development time.

When others questioned the value of the development time, Board Chairman Wayne Lenzmeier, a retired teacher, responded: "Staff development is going to be what you make it; there's always something to learn when you're working with kids."

Staff members have already been paid for the three snow days under their contracts, so the only loss to the district would come if the board did not require employees to work the three makeup days, Kjergaard said.

A motion from board member Dan Croonquist to hold three staff development days in the first week of June failed. Then board member Sandy Unger suggested the Good Friday solution.

Kjergaard said an early dismissal on that day should give people time to attend religious services or leave on trips to visit family.

After the vote, Kjergaard asked the board to think about a way to resolve the snow day issue.

"Somehow we need to come up with a solution so we don't have this discussion every year," he said. "The signal you've sent me is if we miss three days, you'll forgive two (for students)."

Kjergaard and Lenzmeier said they would work on a proposal for a different way of dealing with snow days.

Linda Vanderwerf

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

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