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Walz: Minn. schools get a pass on instruction-time thresholds due to the cold weather

ST. PAUL - Minnesota schools will not be punished if they fall short of the state's instruction time laws because of this week's dangerous weather, Gov. Tim Walz's office said Wednesday.

"The Governor has assured local school districts that they will not be penalized for keeping their students safe," a spokesman for the governor said.

Classes are canceled across the metro Thursday, Jan. 31, for a fourth consecutive day due to snow and cold.

By statute, Minnesota schools must meet minimum thresholds for instruction time each school year.

Minneapolis Superintendent Ed Graff on Monday wrote a letter asking Walz if he can waive those statutes.

"In line with your vision for local decisions and control, it would be helpful in this instance if there was some sort of waiver from the Department of Education for schools who choose to close the next few days due to the extreme, potentially dangerous temperatures, especially since it is a statewide issue," Graff wrote.

"This would allow Superintendents flexibility in making the decision this week, particularly since we haven't hit the heaviest snowfall months of March and April."

A handful of Minneapolis schools have more built-in half-days and are close to going under the statutory minimums, spokesman Dirk Tedmon said.

This week's lost days have Stillwater Area high and middle schools on pace to fall below the required instruction hours for the year.

"Unfortunately, we'll need to look at either increasing the length of our school days or adding days to the school calendar on future non-school days or at the end of the year," spokeswoman Carissa Keister said early Wednesday.

St. Paul Public Schools can miss one more day this year without falling below the state's class time minimum for its secondary schools. They aren't scheduling make-up days at this point.

"We will discuss this when/if it becomes (an) actual issue," Superintendent Joe Gothard said via Twitter.

A Pioneer Press analysis of Minnesota Department of Education data found 28 percent of the state's secondary schools would have gone under the state's instruction time minimum in 2017-18 had they missed four additional school days.

Just three Minnesota elementary schools, which have a lower class time requirement, would have missed the minimum.

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