SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The West Lyon School sits on a county road in Lyon County in northwestern Iowa several miles south of Larchwood and several miles north of Inwood.

The location creates some winter challenges for the district, said superintendent Shawn Kreman.

“We’re in the middle of a cornfield. Everyone of our teenagers drives here,” Kreman said. “You take that into consideration. You don’t want teenage drivers who are learning the ropes (to drive on snow and ice).”

It’s not just the safety of teenaged drivers the district has in mind but it’s the overall safety of staff and all students, Kreman said.

“We have 16 regular bus routes. I think the nearest district with a similar number of routes is LeMars,” Kreman said.

The West Lyon School District has had nine snow days as of Jan. 11.

“Some of its been because of freezing rain, high winds, things like that,” Kreman said. “Those started on Nov. 29.”

The district has also had a few early dismissal days because of the weather.

“I was thinking over (holiday) break that it’s been like Groundhog Day,” Kreman said.

And there are still a few months of winter ahead.

What’s the status in the Sioux Falls, Winner school districts?

The Sioux Falls School District has had three snow days as of Jan. 11, Carly Uthe of the district’s communications department said in an email.

SFSD had four snow days during the 2012-2013 school year, according to records provided by Uthe. The district had a snow day on Jan. 31 because of wind chill and three days off from April 10 through April 12 because of an ice storm.

Conditions in Winner during a recent storm. KELOLAND Live Cam photo

Winner, in the south-central part of South Dakota, has had five snow days. The area has had nearly 40 inches of snow so far this winter, according to KELOLAND meteorologists.

Superintendent Keven Morehart has been superintendent for six years. “We’ve never had five snow days,” he said. “The people here that I’ve talked to about the last time we’ve had a lot of snow days was in 1995. We didn’t have school for two weeks straight. The school year ran all the way to June.”

E-Learning and snow days in Luverne, Minnesota

The Luverne School District in southwestern Minnesota has had four E-learning days and two snow days as of Jan. 11, said high school principal Ryan Johnson. E-learning is using computers and online access for student instruction.

“On average, for a year we are looking at two to four snow days,” Johnson said. Those are snow days with no student contact through E-Learning, he said, and that average happened before E-Learning was implemented in the district.

“The most (recent) one was nine snow days in 2019,” Johnson said.

How do districts make up those snow days?

Snow days will change the schedule in most schools, especially if more snow days are added.

It could mean the school year will end later than originally planned.

SFSD has tentatively added the days to the end of the school year, Uthe said. But the final school calendar won’t be voted on by the school board until late March or early April when it’s confident the winter weather has passed, Uthe said.

The Winner district has built five snow days into the calendar, Morehart said.

But, Morehart said, the school board discussed what’s next at its Monday meeting this week.

Morehart said the Winner district is fortunate to be on a four-day school week, so it can adjust the week.

The district can use what is typically a non-instruction day for students on Fridays to make up lost days, he said.

Staff and others were notified that using that fifth day for instruction is likely the plan should the weather and conditions cancel school, Morehart said.

An Iowa DOT snowplow in northwestern Iowa on Jan. 4. Iowa DOT plow camera photo.

West Lyon started the school year on Aug. 24 which originally meant the last day of school was on May 19, Kreman said.

Snow days mean that school will continue during the week of May 22, Kreman said.

The district is able to recover some other lost days by changing early dismissal days that were designed for staff development, Kreman said.

Districts in Iowa must meet separate hours for student instruction and teacher contracts, Kreman said. The state does not allow for E-learning to be counted for student instruction.

The district’s school board met on Monday night and also had a meeting during the holiday break to discuss snow day options, Kreman said.

“If we see a polar vortex ahead…,” Kreman said. The district would then likely allow staff to use computers and online options for professional development so those days aren’t lost, he said.

But those days would not count for student contact/instruction.

Although the public and even school districts have a mindset that Memorial Day is the cut-off for a school year, that could change this year, Kreman said.

The district may need the four days following Memorial Day for student contact days, he said.

While Minnesota schools are allowed to use E-learning they are allowed up to five days, Johnson said.

Typically that would be enough to cover what would have been snow days, Johnson said.

This year the district had two snow days that were not E-learning days so far because the conditions and weather were a two-day event, he said.

If the weather causes more need for E-learning, it’s possible the state would grant an extension of the five-day limit, Johnson said.

It can be difficult to add days to the end of the school year because students may not be as engaged, he said.