Gov. Doug Burgum announced Friday a willingness to consider granting waivers on a case-by-case basis for school districts that have canceled school because of severe winter storms and dangerously cold temperatures in recent weeks, provided certain criteria are met.
According to North Dakota Century Code, schools must make “every effort to reschedule” missed days if they exceed the number of predetermined snow days.
Burgum said he will consider waiving weather-related closure days if, as required by law, a district has made every effort to make up the missed instruction time. For each school day, the state expends roughly $5.5 million on educating North Dakota children.
“Every day of instruction is important to the education of our children, and both students and taxpayers deserve the value of a complete academic year,” Burgum said in a statement. “There has not been a single day this academic year during which every district in the state has been closed. Therefore, a statewide waiver would be inappropriate for those districts that provided instruction when others didn’t, due to our state’s geographic size and highly variable weather.”
Under state law, any public school or school district for which the rescheduling of classes would create undue hardship may request that the governor waive the rescheduling in whole or in part.
In the near future, a survey will be distributed to school districts to understand the impacts of severe weather events on districts across the state. A waiver application period will open March 1 and close March 15. If additional severe winter weather occurs between now and March 15, the application deadline may be extended.
Shaina Hess, of Minto, on Thursday started a change.org petition asking Burgum to pardon snow days for North Dakota schools. Her request came after a string of recent cancellations, including four snow days in two weeks at school districts throughout eastern North Dakota.
"School districts did the logical thing by canceling school," Hess wrote in the petition. "Students and staff should not be forced to make up these days due to the extreme conditions."
As of Friday afternoon, Hess' petition had garnered almost 8,000 signatures.
Forum News Service's Dan Niepow contributed to this report.