Pop quiz: How do you deal with 15 snow days?

Ionia County
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IONIA, Mich. (WOOD) — Ionia Public Schools holds the record in West Michigan for the most closings this school year.

Ionia students returned to class Monday for the first time since Jan. 25. For perspective, that’s the same day the partial federal government shutdown ended. Since then, they have had 10 straight snow days.

“This is uncharted territory,” Ionia Superintendent Ronald Wilson said. “In 35 years of education, I’ve never had 10 days straight that we’ve been out due to inclement weather.”

It’s a first for many, including parents.

“It’s been crazy trying to keep her active inside the house,” mom Cassie Peterson said about her 5-year-old daughter, who attends Jefferson Elementary. “My daughter (has been) going crazy in the house wanting to go to school. She actually really loves school.”

Ionia has missed 15 days this school year. State law allows for six snow days and three more can be excused by the state superintendent, which is expected. But that still leaves six days to make up — and winter’s not over yet.

“I’ve kind of said this tongue-in-cheek, but we’re almost going to have to let the kids out of school early so they can go to the Fourth of July parade,” Wilson said.

“It would be more productive if we added 30 minutes on to the school day during the school year right now than to try to push kids into the middle or end of June in buildings where we don’t have air conditioning,” he added.

Peterson says she supports that plan.

“Personally I’d be OK with it,” she said.

She’s a stay-at-home mom, but she worries about homes with working parents.

“I know a lot of working parents would have problems with it because they have a strict schedule they have to stick by, so it would probably be tough for them,” she said.

Ionia is not alone. Districts across West Michigan are trying to decide how to handle a glut of snow days. The superintendent of East Grand Rapids Public Schools on Monday sent out a survey asking parents how they would like to make up class time for just one day over the limit.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she is aware that some in the Legislature are considering bills that would forgive school days missed during the period she declared a state of emergency due to extreme weather, or forgive even more days. While she couldn’t commit to legislation not yet written, she said she agrees with the premise in general.

“That is something that I’m open to,” she told 24 Hour News 8 Monday. “I had to declare a state of emergency. We really were on the precipice of losing power to a million people in the coldest part of the cold snap a week and half ago. Schools should not have been in session and I’m glad that they weren’t. We kept people safe … and they shouldn’t have a penalty for that, so that’s something that I’d absolutely look to be supportive of.”

—24 Hour News 8 political reporter Rick Albin contributed to this report.

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