Dozens of school districts across Arkansas won't have to make up all of their snow days after the state Board of Education approved a series of waivers Thursday.
The board's vote, coming on the first day of spring after a particularly active winter dropped snow and ice across the state with more frequency than usual, allows 75 school districts to make up some of their missed days but skip others.
Seventy-three of the districts proposed making up at least 10 school days that were missed and not any above that and got immediate approval. Decatur and Quitman districts sought to make up only nine days and were questioned by the board, but the board ultimately voted to approve plans that require them to also make up 10 days.
Larry Ben, superintendent of the Decatur district, said officials there were trying to avoid having the last day of school fall on Memorial Day. He said he could ask the board to approve Saturday classes, which they had avoided, or having school the Tuesday after Memorial Day instead.
Officials from school districts packed into the meeting at Department of Education headquarters in Little Rock or called in to monitor the vote. Commissioner of Education Tom Kimbrell warned them that makeup days must include at least six hours of instruction time.
He said there was an incident several years ago in which a district brought students in at 8 a.m., had them play basketball and then sent them home at 11 a.m.
"If you're in school on those days and you're making up days, it's six hours of instruction," he said, telling them he wasn't "going to run around and play police" but that districts found in violation could be placed on probation.
The setup varies by school district, which canceled between 12 and 23 days over the winter.
With 23 each, the Viola and Mammoth Spring districts had the most canceled days because of inclement winter weather. Both will make up 10 of those days.
How the 75 districts make up the snow days that weren't waived varies. Viola, for example, will have school on five days that had been set for spring break; on April 18, which had been a day off because it's Good Friday; on one Saturday; and on three days tacked onto the end of the year.