Snow days eat into April break

Wind and snow swirl Feb. 13 in front of Community School in Prospect as schools were closed for the day. The amount of days cancelled so far in Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, means two days of April vacation will be school days. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

Snow swirls in the wind Feb. 13 in front of Community School in Prospect. Schools were closed for the day. The amount of days cancelled so far in Region 16, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, means two days of April vacation will be school days. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

REGION 16 — Due to the amount of snow days that have piled up this winter, the Region 16 Board of Education faced a decision last week — stick to the original school calendar or extend the scheduled school year.

Sticking to the school calendar would mean taking away from April vacation. Extending the set calendar would mean Beacon Falls and Prospect students would go to school deep into June.

Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Tim James said there are downsides to both options as far as instruction is concerned.

There could be issues of regular staff missing and the availability of substitutes taking away from April vacation, he said, since it was scheduled as vacation.

“Staffing our schools is going to be an unknown,” James said.

On the other side, James said, there’s the question of how much learning will occur late in June when it’s hot in the schools.

“It’s a no-win decision for you as a board,” James said.

Ultimately, the consensus of the board was to stick to the original calendar.

So, the last day of school is June 20. And with school canceled Tuesday because of snow, the first two days of April vacation — April 14 and April 15 — are now school days in Region 16.

When the school calendar was approved last year, it was done so with the caveat that the last day would be pushed back to June 20 due to cancellations and any subsequent days that needed to be made up would be taken from April vacation beginning with the Monday of the break.

Legally, the school year can go to June 30.

The June 20 threshold had already been met heading into the board’s meeting last Wednesday. School had also already been canceled for the next day due to snow.

At first the feeling among most of the board was to extend the calendar a few more days instead of taking away from April break.

Board member Nazih Noujaim agreed with James’ assessment that it’s a “no-win” situation, but expressed concerns with the number of substitutes that could be used if April break days become school days.

Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella said she was worried about the impact on instruction with a lot of substitutes.

Board member Sheryl Feducia contended the bottom line is the calendar states vacation days would be removed if snow days push the last day beyond June 20. She said the integrity of the calendar would come into question if it’s changed.

The board put in the caveat regarding vacation days after dealing with a similar issue last winter. The board took a vacation day away last year to make up for snow days, but rescinded the decision after it was clear there would an issue staffing schools.

The feeling of the board last week changed after some feedback from Mary Buckley, a senior at Woodland Regional High School and student representative on the board, and Woodland Principal Kurt Ogren.

Buckley said adding days on at the end of the school year doesn’t help the majority of students, particularly those taking Advanced Placement classes. She said the way the snows days have fallen a lot of AP classes have been missed. AP exams take place in early May. Adding days at the end of the year won’t make up for the lost instruction, she said.

Ogren agreed the nearly 180 students that take AP classes would be at a disadvantage if the calendar was extended. He added he heard from a handful of teachers the day of the meeting that they had set their summer plans with the understanding that June 20 would be the last day. He said they didn’t want the calendar extended.

From an instruction standpoint, Ogren said, the absentee rate among teachers and students would be higher than normal on a vacation day turned school day. But, he said, “I don’t think it’ll be off the charts.”

Ogren added the necessary number of staff would be found to cover the school if some teachers are out. 

“We’ll cover the building because we always do,” he said.

The district has two more days available to take away from April vacation if need be. Good Friday, April 18, will be a day off no matter what. If the district incurs more than two more cancelations the board will have to revisit the calendar.

As far as Naugatuck schools are concerned, the last day of school is currently June 24 following snow days last Thursday and Friday. The original last day was scheduled for June 11.

Any more cancellations in Naugatuck will lead to the calendar being extended up to and including June 30, according to school officials, which leaves the district with four more days at its disposal. The Naugatuck Board of Education is expected to discuss the school calendar and the impact of the weather at its meeting Thursday.

Luke Marshall contributed to this article.

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