Fairmont could add school days

FAIRMONT – The Fairmont Area School Board took action Tuesday that would eliminate three days off for students – maybe.

“This has been a rough winter,” said board member Nicole Green, citing three late starts, one early dismissal and three cancelled school days.

Mandatory teaching time required by the state is based on hours taught, not days, with elementary schools needing fewer hours than high schools. The normal school calendar includes enough teaching days, called student contact days, to fulfill state mandates – unless some of those teaching days are lost because of inclement weather.

“At the high school, we’re getting very close,” Green said. “We’re one snow day and one late start from being in trouble.”

The school calendar has commencement slated for June 1, with no student contact days during June. The last day of school for students is May 30.

Green, who represents the board on the district’s development and curriculum committee, said the group has requested that the board add three student contact days to the calendar. The proposed dates are Feb. 17, March 7 and April 4, originally set for teacher in-service and staff development days.

Including these dates as teaching days would create a “long stretch” of almost 12 weeks without students getting a break, Green said, but this solution is still a better than adding teaching days in June, after commencement, which she described as “problematic and frustrating.”

The board voted unanimously to add the three dates as student contact days, subject to review. If there are no additional weather-related school dismissals, the school may revert back to its original schedule, and students would still get the days off.

In other business, the board learned that the elementary school has switched to fuel oil and the junior-senior high to propane, following a request from Xcel Energy. The district buys natural gas, its usual heating source, from Xcel at a lower rate if the district agrees to use alternative fuels in emergencies.

In this situation, there was a natural gas pipeline rupture near Winnipeg on Sunday, creating the possibility of fuel shortages.