School districts keep eye on number of cancellation days

Area school districts are keeping a close watch on the number of cancellation days they are utilizing during the year for illness and weather-related reasons. 

Area school districts are keeping a close watch on the number of cancellation days they are utilizing during the year for illness and weather-related reasons. 

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As the school year progresses through the winter, school districts have continued managing COVID-19 cases and paying attention to the tally of cancellation days they are utilizing for illness and inclement weather.

Administrations are allowed six days for weather-related or illness cancellations, but are allowed to request three additional days from the state.

At Reed City Area Public Schools, the administration has had four cancellation days so far — three where the district was completely closed, and an additional day when only the elementary was closed. 

Superintendent Michael Sweet said the district is still under the six-day threshold and is hoping to maintain that.

“We have been over 75% attendance throughout the whole district,” Sweet said. “We've had a couple of days where we've been close throughout the school year. Yes, we're struggling, and [COVID-19 case] numbers are high in Osceola County."

Sweet said the district has no plans to mandate vaccinations for students or staff and that he is interested to see if there may be state changes to make up day policy.

“Right now, there's no requirement by OSHA or anything else in the state of Michigan for vaccinations in schools,” Sweet said. “So, we're encouraging them, and we had vaccination clinics in our schools for staff, students and the public.

“We haven't been in the position where we would need to use any days, but we were virtual for some days," he added. "We've been virtual at the middle school and high school because of early outbreaks early on."

At Big Rapids Public Schools, administrators tried to be sparing with the days of school they cancel. 

Superintendent Tim Haist said the district has needed to cancel very few days of schooling for illness. 

“So far we have used only one day for illness,” Haist said. “We took a day after Martin Luther King Day because it was more about having too many staff members out sick where we weren’t able to fill all of our staffing needs that day. But, we also had seen an increase in the number of cases in our students, so we took a day.” 

This winter, the district has only had to cancel three days of school as a result of inclement weather, and the total number of canceled days for the district stands at five. 

Haist said students and parents have been very cooperative with all of the adjustments the district has faced this year. 

"They know that we're doing our best to keep our students in school and to stay in person versus having to move to remote learning,"  Haist said. "We've tried to take a lot of preventative action to allow us to stay in person as much as possible.” 

The administration currently does not have any vaccination requirements in place, but is still encouraging mask-wearing among students and staff.

Haist said his administration plans to continue monitoring illness cases and work with families in the district. 

“Our goal will be to stay in person, you know, hopefully, we're hopeful that we've seen kind of our spike of cases, and we're hoping that we're moving in the right direction," Haist said. "As we see opportunities to lessen our restrictions, we will do that."