Make-Up Days Cut Presidents Day Long Weekend
Board of Education chooses an option that does not lengthen the school year.
The board of education opted Tuesday to eliminate Presidents Day weekend to make up for days of school lost during the power outages following Superstorm Sandy.
This was part of a new option created by Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder to account for being closed more than a week following the storm.
According to Schilder, after closing for power outages, the schools are broken up into two categories based on how many days they were closed.
The Bridgewater-Raritan High School, Hillside Intermediate School, Bradley Gardens Primary, Hamilton Primary, John F. Kennedy Primary, Milltown Primary and Van Holten Primary were all closed for six days due to the hurricane, but got two of those days back by being open on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9, both originally scheduled as days off.
From there, Schilder said, they had three snow days built in, so those schools only have to make up one day.
During a discussion at the previous board meeting, members focused on one plan that used Feb. 15 as a make-up day, and placed additional snow days during spring break, with the additional possibility of extending the school year by one day.
Schilder created two hybrids of that plan because the board had expressed concerns about extending the school year.
In the end, the board opted for a plan that uses Feb. 15 as a hurricane make-up day for the entire district, as well as Feb. 18 as a make-up day for the four schools that used an extra day because of power outages.
"I very much agree with using Feb. 15 and Feb. 18," said board member Jeffrey Brookner. "I think there isn't that much of a need for a break in February, it is not that far removed from coming back to school in January and it is not far removed from spring break."
From there, if more snow days are needed, days will be eliminated from spring break, starting with April 1, and then moving straight through the full week, starting with March 25 and moving through each day to March 28.
March 29 will be a day off no matter what because it is Good Friday.
But with this plan, there is a better chance that the school year will not have to be extended.
"There is no plan I could put together that would anchor the end of the school year," Schilder said. "We just have to hope for the winter."
Originally, Schilder said, March 26 was not considered as a give-back day because it is the first full day of Passover.
But several board members said they believe it would be too confusing to students and parents to skip that day as a give-back.
"The relevant event is the seder, the evening of the 25th and the evening of the 26th," Brookner said. "I don't think we should skip the day like that."
Brookner also suggested that if a snow day is used in December, then all students should attend school on Feb. 18, and then the four schools with the extra day off could attend on June 21, the day after scheduled graduation. This would not affect the high school, which is not one of the four with an extra day to find in the calendar year.
And in this scenario, high school graduation, and Project Graduation, could still be set for June 20, as it is listed now.
"If by January, we know we need a make-up day, all kids will be in school Feb. 18, and the four schools that need an extra make-up day will have it somewhere else, but all kids should be in school that day," Brookner said. "One of the reasons I like June 21 for that point is because the last day of school is usually parties and yearbook signings anyway. Kids are less inclined to skip that, and if they do, the stakes are lower."
Several board members said they understood the logic, but thought it would be too confusing to put together.
"I think the logic is impeccable, but I think the execution would be flawed," said board of education vice president Patrick Breslin.
Also on the table were discussions on the benefits of holding classes on Saturday if additional snow days were needed.
Schilder said the state has said that if a district wants to hold classes on Saturday, they must have it approved by the county superintendent. And at this point, he said, the county superintendent is not inclined to allow it.
"The problem with Saturday is that it is a religious observance," he said. "There is a concern kids just won't come, and that attendance will be really low."
Board president Evan Lerner said he does not encourage having classes on Saturdays, but that if they blow through all the snow days and have the option of either having class on Saturday or going to school later in June, he would opt for Saturday.
Schilder said he thinks there is the possibility that if the district were out of options later in the year, the county superintendent might be more inclined to approve Saturday classes then.
But the board decided that they had to move forward with the option, and worry about future snowstorms when and if they happen.
"I like the option, it brings the district in line as of Feb. 18, and all schools on the same schedule," Breslin said. "It is consistent with what we have already planned."
"I don't think we can set up contingencies for contingencies," he added.