What Exactly is Michigan Snow Day Law?

Luc LeMerise

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Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signs into law Enrolled House Bill No. 4206.

With one snow day already under our belt, some questions are raised as to how many snow days can be missed before a school has to make them up. To answer these questions, I investigated the specifics of snow day law in Michigan and how the governor factors into them.

On May 10th this year at an educator’s conference in Novi, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law a bill forgiving schools from making up 5 days that were previously cancelled due to cold weather.

A Michigan public act requires that schools teach their students for at least 1,098 hours and 180 days before they start losing money from the state. However, school districts can initially cancel 6 days without having to make them up to meet these minimum requirements. Furthermore, districts can request a waiver from the superintendent to excuse 3 additional days. But, once a district exceeds these 9 excused days, it has to make them up if they desire not to be penalized by the state.

By the time the governor signed this bill (entitled Enrolled House Bill No. 4206) into law, many schools had passed their 9-day maximum of snow days, so she felt it necessary to forgive the days between Jan. 29 and Feb. 2. These days were cancelled by districts due to arctic freezing, which is evidently out of their control. Being sympathetic to these schools who would lose some state funding because they exceeded the 9 cancellable days, Whitmer passed this law to relieve some stress from the districts that had cancelled school.

Because this law only directly applies to the 2018-2019 school year and not this current school year, it may not seem very relevant to students in Michigan right now. However, it is possible that the passing of this law could establish a precedent for cancelling school in the state of Michigan.

This precedent could entail that districts are able to cancel more than 9 days of school without being penalized by the state, provided that the days are cancelled due to conditions out of the district’s control. It is also important that a reasonable amount of schools are affected by these conditions so that the House of Representatives has a reason to introduce a bill in the first place.

Additionally, because winter will be starting soon on December 21, risky weather conditions are likely to occur. Districts will potentially have to cancel school as a result, meaning that if enough districts exceed the 9-day maximum for cancellable school days, Whitmer may sign a similar law to Enrolled House Bill No. 4206, excusing schools from the excess days cancelled.

According to Steve Carmody, a writer for Michigan Radio, Gov. Whitmer herself believes that, “When weather is extreme and dangerous, we have to be mindful and take action and be nimble.”

Resultingly, Whitmer seems to be open-minded when it comes to school cancellations. This is beneficial to students in Michigan, where the weather is often unpredictable.