‘Snow days’ pile up before winter

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Early snow and a tropical storm have already pushed back the last day of school for Naugatuck and Region 16 students this year. - FILE PHOTO

Local students will still be feeling the effects of Snow Storm Alfred next year.

The Naugatuck school district has canceled February break, according to Assistant Superintendent Brigitte Crispino. Three days of the break, Feb. 22 through Feb. 24, were canceled after power outages forced school to close all of last week following the Oct. 29 Nor’easter.

Schools will still be closed Feb. 20 and Feb. 21.

The school district also closed for three days following Tropical Storm Irene in August, for a total of eight days missed so far this semester.

Next Thursday, which was originally scheduled as a professional development day, will now be a full day of school. Also, the Scholastic Aptitude Tests (SAT’s) originally scheduled for Nov. 5, have been postponed until Nov. 19.

The remainder of the missed days will be added to the end of the school year, in June, Crispino said.

Students’ last day, as of now, will be June 18 while teachers will have to stay an extra day to make up the professional development day.

Crispino said the decision to take away February break was built into this year’s school calendar after discussions following last year’s heavy snows. As soon as the schools had accumulated five unscheduled days off, three days were set to be taken from February break.

Last year, the Board of Education struggled with the calendar after an unprecedented 11 snow days by mid-February. The board considered taking away February break, but ultimately decided against it in the face of union contracts and student and staff vacation plans.

“When we developed the calendar this year, we made it very clear that February vacation could be eliminated,” Crispino said.

Naugatuck used 13 snow days last year, the most in the state.

“We’re obviously frustrated that we’ve had eight snow days already and the winter hasn’t even started,” said board Chair David Heller.

But, he added, “We’re fortunate that we revised our school calendar so we could prepare for a situation like this.”

Heller said he hoped there wouldn’t be any more snow days this school year, but conceded that would be unlikely.

Crispino said the change in schedule shouldn’t affect state testing, which can take place any time in March.

Crispino said she couldn’t remember another time February break had to be eliminated, but part of April vacation was taken away many years ago.

In Region 16, the five days missed last week will simply be tacked on to the end of the year, pushing the last day back to June 19, according to Superintendent of Schools James Agostine.

Unlike Naugatuck, Region 16 students didn’t miss any school days following Tropical Storm Irene.

By state law, 180 days or 900 hours of school must be completed by June 30, leaving Region 16 with eight and Naugatuck with nine snow days left at the end of the year.

Agostine said the Region 16 school board will have to look into making up days during scheduled vacations if there are more snow days by the end of December.

“It’s so unpredictable. It’s hard to say this early in the season,” Agostine said.

Last year, Region 16 didn’t loose any school days until after the first of the year, he said. He said the district has never had this many days off this early in the year.

“It’s an unfortunate week to miss because it’s a good full week of school,” Agostine said. “You lost a good solid week of instruction.”

Agostine said the district will make some alterations to marking periods because of the storm, but it shouldn’t drastically affect the curriculum.