School districts face difficult decisions with every severe storm. The safety and education of our North Dakota students is a priority for everyone.
The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI) Office of School Approval and Opportunity often receives questions from the field regarding weather related school closings.
We felt it would be beneficial to share many of these common questions as well as our responses. If schools have questions unique to their situation, please feel free to contact Acting Director Joe Kolosky at (701) 328-2295 or Kelsie Howes at (701) 328-4571.
Q.1. When schools close because of weather, do these days need to be made-up?
A.1. Yes, the district must make every reasonable effort to make up the missed instructional time. This can be done in the following ways:
1. Qualifying districts may use one allowed academic day (grace day). A qualifying district is one that schedules school days that are at least 30 minutes longer than required by law.
2. Schedule instructional days on the designated snow days included in the school calendar.
3. Make up missed instructional time by lengthening the normally scheduled school day and/or scheduling an instructional day on Saturday and/or adding an instructional day(s) to the end of the school year. The normally scheduled school day of a school district is the time submitted on the school calendar not the NDCC required minutes.
Q.2. Are there any specific suggestions on what days that can be used to make up school closings other than what is listed above?
A.2. Schools have quite a few options when it comes to making up days due to weather related closings, including –
Grace day- qualifying districts may use one allowed academic day (grace day). A qualifying district is one that scheduled school days that are at least 30 minutes longer than required by law.
Designated storm days
Add additional time each day to make up days missed
Martin Luther King Day
Extra day(s) at the end of the school year
Holiday break days
Spring break days
Professional Development Days – State law requires that two professional development days be built into the school year calendar. If a school has more than two days planned, the additional days are available options for schools to make up. If a school uses a required professional development day, the professional development day must be rescheduled.
Q.3. How is a full-day of instruction defined in statue?
A.3. For kindergarten and elementary students, a full day of instruction is defined as at least 5.5 hours during which time the students are required to be in attendance for the purpose of receiving curricular instruction. This excludes non-instructional time such as recess, lunch, etc. See NDCC 15.1-06-04(4) and Attorney General Opinion 1997-L-100.
For high school students, a full day of instruction is defined as at least 6 hours during which the students are required to be in attendance for the purpose of receiving curricular instruction. Note: zero hour and early bird classes are not counted as part of the normal instructional day for the purpose of qualifying for the “grace day” because it is not a requirement for all students. See NDCC 15.1-06-04(4) and Attorney General Opinion 1997-L-100.
Q.4. If a school starts late or releases students early, does the school have to make that time up?
A.4. Yes, this time must be made-up minute per minute based on the schools normally scheduled school day as reported in the school calendar in the STARS system.
Example, if the school day is reported as 6 hours for elementary and the school starts two hours late, the school must make up two hours of time. The requirement elementary school is 5.5 hours of instructional time; however, the reported school day is 6 hours. The school must make up the time to equal the 6-hour school day.
Q.5. If the school is open on a stormy day, does there have to be a certain percent of students attending to have it count as an instructional school day?
A.5. No. As long as your school is in session, it counts as an instructional day regardless of the number of students present.
Q.6. Do district have to use the designated storm days to make up weather related closings, or can other days be used?
A.6. It seems reasonable to use the storm days included in the calendar. These are the days that were approved by the school board as storm days. However, it is up to the district to determine the best days to use for make up time.
Q.7. In reference to an elementary school day, NDCC refers to a full day of instruction as 5.5 hours at the elementary level. Our school district has a 6 instructional day at elementary. Does that mean that we only have to make up 5.5 hours as a full day?
A.7. No. A full day is exactly what you report on your fall calendar. If your normal day of instruction is 6 hours, then you are required to make up 6 hours of instruction time.
Q.8. Can schools make up storm days before January 1? For example, can schools use the December holiday break for storm make up days?
A.8. Yes, schools may make up storm days anytime throughout the school year. There may be some confusion here because schools must schedule storm days in the STARS calendar after January 1 per North Dakota Century Code 15.1-27-23(2)(b). However, schools may make up storm days any time during the school year (except holidays and Sundays as outlined in North Dakota Century Code 15.1-06-02).
Q.9. What is the guidance on adding make up time to our normal school day? Does it have to be at least 30 minutes longer each day?
A.9. A district may extend their school day in whatever time increments work for them to make up the storm days. This could be 5, 10, 30, or some other number of minutes. The district will need to coordinate with other programs (i.e., after school programs), bus schedules and other activities to determine the best way to make up the time.
Q.10. If a district has a late start day because of weather and plans to use the one allowed academic day or grace day (because they hold school for 30 minutes longer per day than required by law), must they use the full grace day for the late start? Or can they use a portion of the grace day for the late start and use other portions of the grace day for other weather related closing?
A.10. The grace day can be used in increments until the full grace day is used. Remember to document and keep records on this.
Q.11. When a school is making up additional time due to weather related school closings, does it matter whether the additional time is added to the beginning or end of the school day?
A.11. No. The law is silent on the manner in which the make-up time is incorporated into the school day.
Q.12. Is foundation aid payments affected by storm days?
A.12. Maybe. Schools must make every attempt to make up missed instructional time. Schools will receive funding for the days made-up. If days are not made-up, schools may apply and submit the “Request for Emergency Declaration State Adie Eligibility” (State Form Number or SFN 51826). If approved the district will receive state foundational aid for the days forgiven.
Q.13. When should a district apply for and submit information requesting forgiveness on storm days?
A.13. Every reasonable effort must be made to make up the missed instructional time, then the district may petition the governor to forgive those additional days/hours by submitting an application to the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction. All make-up days must be documented and entered in the spring calendar. The due date for the “Request for Emergency Declaration State Adie Eligibility” (SFN 51826) is due by May 1. This timeframe allows time for the Governor to consider the request and time for districts to make up the requested days in the event the request is denied.
Q.14. Are there ever times where days off for weather or other emergencies are not forgiven through SFN 51826?
A.14. Yes. Every reasonable effort must be made to make up the missed instructional time. If the district has made every reasonable effort, the request is generally approved. However, if the district failed to make this effort, the request could be denied.