UCS adds time to calendar


The 2014 Polar Vortex broke records for snowfall, and combined with temperatures that were seemingly almost always below zero degrees, it was one worst winters in Michigan history.
The inclement weather forced Utica Community Schools to close school nine times.
“I thought the snow days were awesome, honestly,” senior Ivan Sanchez said. “It was perfect hibernation weather. All I did was eat and watch Netflix; it was pretty chill.”
Because UCS builds extra days into its calendar every year, instead of making up all nine days, all four UCS high schools will only have to make up an additional day on May 23, as well as changing June 11, the first day of exams, to a full day, instead of a half.
Surrounding school districts schedule their calendars approximately a week less than UCS. Their extra days off may result in a longer winter break in December and January, or an earlier dismissal in June, depending on the district. For UCS, the added days are a benefit when multiple days are missed due to inclement weather.
“It surprised me when I found out that Utica Community schools usually goes to school a week longer than most Michigan school districts,” teacher Steven Domke said, “but for a year like this, it’s not really a bad thing, I think it was a good back up plan.”
Because Michigan requires schools to have a minimum of 178 days of class and 1,098 hours of class time, UCS was forced to make additions to its school calendar.
“We have to meet state guidelines,” principal Janet Jones said. “That’s the main reason behind the extra day being added.”
Neighboring Chippewa Valley Schools favored adding on minutes to their school days, as opposed to tacking on extra days. CVS high schools now start three minutes earlier and get out three minutes later until the end of the school year.
“Adding a day is much easier than adding minutes to the day,” associate principal Kenneth Voakes said. “Elementary children might need baby sitters, and those extra minutes could impact parents by adding to their costs.”
The new calendar, which only affects two of the district’s 25 elementary schools, and only one of seven elementary schools, was negotiated by the Utica Education Association and the school board administration. Since not all of the high schools’ testing days did not count, according to state regulations, one and a half days needed to be added to the high school schedules only.
On ACT testing day, juniors were the only students in attendance, except for a minimal number of seniors. During Work Keys and MME testing, senior and sophomore classes had a late start to accommodate needed testing space for juniors. The late start and the juniors’ early release only counted as a half day.
June 11 was originally scheduled as a half day for first and second hour exams; now students will proceed to their regular schedules after testing. Most students don’t have a problem with the change.
“What would we do at home, anyway?” sophomore Ashley Waddell said. “Now we just get more time to study and ask our teachers more questions.”
Many students, however, take issue with the district adding a day onto what was originally scheduled to be a four-day holiday weekend.
“My family goes up north every Memorial Day weekend, and my mom refused to cancel our plans because of the added day,” junior Chelsea Koger said. “I don’t think a majority of students will be in school that day.”
And that could pose a problem for UCS. As a condition for any school day to “count” toward state requirements, 75 percent of the student body must be in attendance. The penalty for not meeting the state’s requirement may affect funding.
In addition to the shortened Memorial Day weekend, the added day caused controversy for seniors, whose unofficial “senior skip day” was planned for the Thursday before, giving them a five-day break.
With plans already made, many seniors said they will not be attending school the Thursday or Friday before Memorial Day.
“I’m going to Cedar Point,” senior Stefanos Patestis said. “I’m leaving on that Thursday and skipping Friday to enjoy Memorial weekend there.”
Other seniors had more simple plans for their senior skip day.
“It sucks that we have the extra day now,” senior Josh Copen said. “I had plans to skip that Thursday and go up to a college and chill with some of my friends for the weekend,”
For other seniors a heavy dose of television and sleep is just what they need for the day off leading into the weekend.
“I’m just going to enjoy the day off,” senior Kyle Allard said. “I haven’t really thought about what I’m going to do; I might just chill and watch Netflix or something.”
As far as administration is concerned, however, a skip day is not their concern, as it is not acknowledged on the school calendar.
“Senior skip day does not exist,” Principal Janet Jones said. “It is not an official date on my calendar, and I believe that every student should be in class and participating.”