Requesting a waiver for a snow day just got easier for Utah schools

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Second graders, Sarah Watt and Evelyn Oscarson play in the snow in the Avenues after school was cancelled because of the storm, Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.

It will now be much easier for Utah schools that cancel classes for a snow day — including those that did after the massive storm earlier this week — to request a waiver from having to make up that time.

On Thursday, the state Board of Education unanimously approved a rule change so that Utah’s superintendent of schools can unilaterally approve those petitions. Previously, a school district had to schedule a meeting and appeal before the entire board to do so.

Under the new direction, the superintendent can grant a waiver if the K-12 school “has another plan in place to minimize the negative impact on the education process” caused by the missed day.

The state requires schools to hold class for 180 days each year. Schools that close for inclement weather can either make up the day at a later date or petition to waive the requirement and be short one day of instruction. Mark Peterson, spokesman for the board, said most schools choose to fill the hole by holding class on a previously scheduled holiday.

After the snow storm this week, that’s what Salt Lake City and Canyons school districts intend to do. Salt Lake City will hold an extra day of class in May. And Canyons will have students come in on Presidents’ Day later this month.

“It’s not done too often,” Peterson said. “Utahns are pretty good at getting around in the snow.”

[Read more: Two remote and rural Utah schools will go to 4-day weeks]

Some schools also build leeway into their schedules, such as creating a 181-day school year, to anticipate anything that might come up. And others, like Granite School District this week, choose to do a delayed schedule.

But this change makes it easier for those that have less flexibility.

Snow days are rare in Utah — the one that a handful of districts called for on Monday was only the second in decades. There was one last year, too, but many can’t remember any that happened prior to that for at least 20 years.

This week the state was slammed with several inches of snow from north to south.