SALT LAKE CITY — After more than 50 minutes of debate, the Utah State Board of Education on Friday granted just Logan High School a waiver of the state's attendance rule due to a major snowstorm that forced district officials to call off classes.
Logan School District had sought a waiver on behalf of the entire district but board members decided only the high school, which is undergoing a massive renovation project, should receive a waiver because the construction schedule made it more problematic to schedule makeup days.
Under state rule, school districts are required to conduct school a minimum of 180 days and 990 hours a year.
Local school boards are encouraged to build emergency closure makeup days in their academic calendars in the event of major storm or some other event that requires that administrators to call off school.
In Logan's case, snow days were not built into this year's academic calendar.
District 1 board member Terryl Warner of Hyrum said the request for the waiver noted that the Logan schools would meet the 990-minimum standard but would like a reprieve from the 180-day standard.
Some board members wondered aloud why the issue was even before the State School Board.
Others balked at offering any waivers.
State Board Chairman Mark Huntsman, who served on a local school board for eight years, said his district worked within the rule.
"As soon as we start into this, it's going to open a Pandora’s box. 'I want a waiver. I want a waiver. I want a waiver,' " he said.
Board member Janet Cannon said the attendance rule was established, in part, as an acknowledgement of how important it is to conduct school a minimum of 180 days and 990 hours.
"If those aren't sacrosanct to us, why would they be sacrosanct to someone else?' she said.
Board member Carol Lear agreed.
"If you put rules in place, then waivers just undermine them," she said.
Other waiver applications are likely to come before the board next month.
While the board spent nearly an hour debating attendance waivers for snow days or other limited circumstances, it sparingly discussed a waiver request from American Leadership Academy to conduct a four-day schoolweek.
The charter school plans to reserve one day a week for professional development of staff.1 comment on this story
A three-year waiver approved by the board requires the charter school to adhere to the 990-hour minimum requirement and longitudinal comparisons of scores on the Student Assessment of Growth and Excellence, otherwise known as SAGE.
Some board members said that American Leadership Academy, as a charter school, should be granted some latitude.
"Charter schools are made to be different," said board member Scott Neilson.
Board member Michelle Boulter said the request was limited to "one school that's a charter school. It's not a district. It's not the whole state. It's one school."
On a split vote, the waiver was granted.