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Snow Days Give School Districts Headaches

Stella M. Chávez
Another snowy day in North Texas. In Denton, bad winter weather forced five closed days. The superintendent may ask for waivers from the state-required 180 school days, but the TEA won's take such requests until March.

For kids, one of the benefits of rough winter weather has been days off from school. But for school districts, it’s a nightmare. Here’s a look at one hard hit district dealing with unexpected weather closures.  

School kids in Denton have gotten five bad weather days off so far this year, and spring’s still more than a month away.  Denton Superintendent Jamie Wilson doesn’t like cancelling classes.

“You know it’s always a sticky situation when you begin to make those calls as to whether or not to have classes,” Wilson says.  “There were many accidents all across our county and in fact there were some fatalities in Southern Denton County involving students in a neighboring district.”

Michelle Deusman, a PTA President and graduate student with two kids in Denton elementary schools, has a love-hate relationship with bad weather days.  

“I love having that downtime with my kids that I don’t always get during the week,” says Deusman. “But then there are times where they’re arguing like crazy and think ugh, if I could just ship them off to school things would be so much better.” 

Deusman sympathizes with other working parents who have to scramble when school unexpectedly closes. This year, Denton canceled three more days than it planned for.  She worries that long weekends built into the late spring schedule might become make-up days.

“As a family,” Deusman explains, “I cherish those long weekends because those are the weekends we try to get away, and we don’t have them anymore. It’s a hard balance to figure out.”

State law requires that students spend at least 180 days in school each year. Denton Superintendent Wilson says he may ask for a waiver from that rule, but not until winter’s a memory. In the meantime, he has other options besides extending the school year.

“You could look at school on a Saturday,” Wilson says, “and we could even extend the days longer in May. It’s just, we haven’t had to get to that situation yet.”

The Texas Education Agency says it may consider waivers, but not before next month, well after the threat of more bad weather days has passed.  

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.