More sledding ahead? Snow days could return for Minneapolis students

Minneapolis students and parents wistful for the days of homework-free snow days may get their wish come next winter.

Under a new proposal, the city’s public school students wouldn’t have to log in to online class from home every time severe weather cancels in-person lessons. Elementary students would get three snow days before e-learning days would kick in; middle and high school students would get two.

That change runs counter to a trend toward requiring distance learning for snowed-in students — something several Minnesota districts have done in recent years.

Minneapolis schools implemented such a policy during the pandemic, and Board Member Ira Jourdain said he didn’t immediately understand its impact.

“But trust me, I heard it from my kids,” Jourdain said, adding that he also received new messages of disapproval from parents with each e-learning day called.

The change on snow days was presented to board members Tuesday as part of a package of potential changes for the 2024-2025 school calendar. It would need to be negotiated with the district’s teachers union and approved by the school board.

The snow days would be possible because the district is considering standardizing the school day across all its campuses to 6 hours and 40 minutes. That will require most schools to add 10 minutes of class time each day — and build more cushion into the calendar. The district legally has to provide a certain number of instructional hours during the school year.

That required instructional time is part of the reason the district axed snow days in the first place.

Board Member Kim Ellison said that at the time, the board’s choice was between enforcing e-learning days or adding school days to the end of the school year in June to make up for weather-cancelled class time.

“That’s why we did that,” Ellison said.

But it elicited a strong response from parents and students. Many critics of the new policy had grown weary of distance learning days — especially with younger children — and believed that the joy of a carefree snow day is a childhood right.

“I appreciate that staff has listened to what our families said about it,” Ellison said Tuesday.

The slightly longer school days would also allow the 2024-2025 school year to end on Friday, June 6, instead of Wednesday, June 11, 2025.

Minneapolis’ academic year has stretched further into June than surrounding districts, which can complicate students’ summer job prospects and delay summer construction projects at school sites.

“I’ve been banging on this dais for the last few years on this — the school year is too long,” Jourdain said.

The district will also consider making Nov. 5, 2024 — Election Day — a record-keeping day with no classes because about 25 schools or their adjoining recreation centers serve as polling places. Osseo, Robbinsdale and Anoka-Hennepin school districts have recently declared Election Day as a non-school day.