H-PT to add at least one extra day

HOUGHTON – Houghton-Portage Township Schools students will have at least one extra day at the end of the school year.

Superintendent Doreen Klingbeil updated the school board on a new policy from the state regarding snow days at Monday’s board meeting. The state Board of Education is recommending districts with more than six snow days make up lost time with full school days rather than extended hours.

Michigan schools are required to have 175 days and 1,090 hours of instruction. Since the snow days have occurred before April 1, the district cannot apply for a waiver, Klingbeil said.

The last day of school had been scheduled for June 11, which is a Wednesday.

“Students, staff and family should be thinking in terms that we’ll have to add one day to this current calendar, and if we have another (snow day), we have to add another one, so to keep that timeline in mind,” he said.

This will be the first time in about 25 years that the district has had to add a day to its calendar, Vice President Brad Baltensperger said.

Klingbeil said the district can absorb at least one more day before it would have to extend the school year into another week.

“It’s the Monday after that would be a little tough, but we’ll see how that goes,” she said.

Board member Buck Foltz said the issue of how to make up snow days would be best handled at the local level rather than by the state board.

“I wish they would figure out funding and how they can assess schools rather than fart around with snow days,” he said to Klingbeil. “They need to figure out what their jobs really are. I’m pretty sure you’re capable.”

The board also heard from Klingbeil about technology updates in the district. Among the upgrades were removing the high school library lab and putting in 30 Chromebooks, inexpensive web-based laptops somewhere between a netbook and a tablet.

“That’s having a very positive response,” she said. “A lot of kids are going in there and learning how to use those Chromebooks.”

The district also has 120 iPads, mostly used by staff, and recently upgraded the district’s wireless network.

The next project could be adding Chromebooks to take into classrooms to meet the state’s increased focus on online testing, Klingbeil said. Students might also be able to go to the library and check out a Chromebook to use for an hour, she said. There have also been requests to expand the Chromebook mobile labs in the middle and elementary schools.

At this point, Klingbeil said, it makes more sense for the district to provide computer access during the day rather than providing take-home devices for students.

Elementary School Principal Anders Hill said the school is ordering some Chromebooks for its Title I program. He foresees adding more, as the school’s testing platforms and software are web-based. In the future, he thinks more students will bring in their own devices.

“As the price comes down, I would say the majority of our students already have a device they can take in,” he said. “So how do you filter that and protect everything so students can take that in?”