It's been a long time since the Unified School Districts had to use built-in snow days.

Usually it's just one or two snow days but both USD 438 Skyline and USD 382 Pratt had to take five days off because of two snowstorms in just over a week.

"I think this was unprecedented. Calling off school for five days is pretty unique," said Suzan Patton, USD 382 superintendent of schools who couldn't recall ever having five snow days in a single year in her entire education career.

School calendars are based on the number of hours taught, not the number of days taught. The current state minimum requirement is 1,116 student contact hours, Patton said.

Because Southwest Elementary, Liberty Middle School and Pratt High School have different schedules, Patton is asking each building principal to check hours to determine if the district will have to make up hours.

"I believe we may have to make an adjustment in our schedule," Patton said.

If extra days are needed, the district might use teacher professional learning days scheduled in April and May to fill the necessary time requirement.

At this time, no decision on the hours has been made on whether or not make up days are even needed but Patton is keeping the Board of Education appraised of the situation. When the information is gathered, Patton will notify the board of her recommendation.

Skyline also had to use five snow days. The district had set aside seven snow days and after figuring out total hours missed, Skyline still has 15.3 hours or 2.0 days available before they would have to make up hours, said Superintendent Mike Sanders.

If it were necessary to make up hours, minutes could be added to the end of days or days could be added to the end of the year. If days were needed, the district would avoid taking time from spring break, Good Friday and the Monday after Easter.

While the district won't have to make up hours, teachers will have to make up lessons missed during the storms so they reach the required 1,116 hours of student contact time.

Skyline has a music program on March 5 and the teachers have missed five days of practice. This puts pressure on teachers to come up with creative ways to find some extra practice time such as possibly practicing during seminar time, Sanders said.

Both superintendents keep a close eye on the weather and make the decision to close school as early as possible.

Sanders said he likes to make the decision early, the night before if possible, because the district can alert the students, parents, faculty, staff and other agencies in the county such as dispatch at the Law Enforcement Center.

Many students live in rural areas in both districts and many of the county roads were impassable during and for a couple of days after the storms. Besides students, some faculty and staff also live in the county and were snowed in as well.

"The safety of the students and staff is first and foremost for me," Sanders said. "I'm thinking of the 16 or 17-year-old student driving on a county road."

Patton said safety is always the main concern in bad weather. She doesn't want students, parents, faculty and busloads of students on the road in dangerous conditions.

An early decision on closings also helps the employees responsible for clearing parking lots and sidewalks.

"I appreciate their hard work. We have an outstanding staff here," Sanders said.

Crews worked hard at Pratt High to get the parking lot clear so the school could host a sub state basketball tournament. The grounds were clear for the students, athletes, patrons and out of town visitors.

"I have to give all kinds of thanks to our crew for getting things clear," Patton said.