KIMBERLY — Dangerous, icy roads, blowing and drifting snow, and an all-around miserable winter meant many mornings of bleary-eyed students rejoicing at snow days. Now they’re making that lost class time up. But they’re not the only ones.
In Kimberly, at least 10 teachers plan to volunteer after school is out for the summer with projects including cleaning school buses, landscaping work and organizing school libraries. They say it’s their way to make up work days in their contract that were canceled this winter because of snowy weather.
Lance Butler, a fourth-grade teacher at Kimberly Elementary School, came up with the idea after thinking about how other professionals don’t get paid if they don’t work. He wants to honor his contract and set a good example for his students.
“We signed contracts and said we would work a certain number of days, and we need to honor our word,” said Butler, who has taught at Kimberly Elementary for about 15 years.
Kimberly teachers are on a 190-day contract and five of those days are paid holidays.
Butler said he’s still working out the details of how interested teachers will volunteer. Some may wait until a few weeks into the summer in order to help out with summer school.
Butler plans to volunteer for five days — the number of snow days this school year.
It was a particularly harsh winter, and many Magic Valley school districts had the most snow days they’d seen in two decades.
Kimberly had five snow days, plus one early release day. The school board decided to schedule one makeup school day, set for Friday.
More than a month ago, Butler sent out an email to all Kimberly School District teachers about the idea of volunteering beyond their scheduled end date.
Butler said the responses were positive, although a few teachers were concerned about the idea. But he said he stressed it’s purely optional and a volunteer opportunity.
He expects more teachers will show up than the approximately 10 who gave a definitive “yes.”
Kami Michelli, a fifth-grade teacher at Kimberly Elementary School, is among those who plans to volunteer.
Kimberly schools are the heart of the community and many people put in volunteer hours, said Michelli, who has worked at the elementary school for about eight years. “It’s really important that we show as much commitment to the school as they do.”
The five snow days this winter came with a hefty price tag for the school district. It spent about $150,000 just for its regular payroll — $30,000 per day.
But employees weren’t at work, students weren’t in class, and children missed a week of instructional time.
Idaho requires students to be in class for a minimum of 450 hours for kindergarten, 810 for first through third grades, 900 for fourth through eighth grades and 990 for ninth through 12th grades.
Local school boards can waive up to 11 hours of instructional time for weather or facility issues.
Many Magic Valley school districts build in plenty of extra hours into their school year calendar. But some districts are requiring students to make up some of the hours they missed.
The large number of snow days has been interesting, Butler said. Students start standardized testing soon, and snow days have led to less preparation time.
“Those are five days we can never get back,” he said.
Snow days are miserable, Michelli said, adding they make a teacher’s job more difficult. “We don’t want a snow day.”
It means bumping back planned lessons and spelling tests, for example.
There’s a lot of rearranging, Michelli said, and the children come back “super excited” after getting a day off.
“It’s really tough to have a plan for the week and have it disrupted,” she said.
Students who are absent from school under any other circumstance are expected to make up missed work.
And while snow days are a treat for children, Butler said, he explains to his students that adults still have to go to work, find a way to get it done from home or risk not being paid.
Volunteering for missed school days is his way of taking his lesson from the classroom to the real world.