Editorial: Proposal to shorten February break to compensate for lost school days

Editorial Board

With six days of school missed due to Hurricane Sandy many were left wondering: When is the other shoe going to drop? When are we going to have to make these days up?

A week and a half ago Interim Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathleen Mooney answered this question for us, by suggesting to the Board of Education that district schools must eliminate three days of the week-long February break, creating two three-day weekends, instead of one continuous ten day break.

While many were hoping that New York State might come through and allow schools to continue without making up for lost time, such a waiver has not yet come through, and will only be offered to districts on a case-by-case basis, assuming that the district has already eliminated any disposable vacation days.

Although The Schreiber Times understands the district’s need to comply with state laws, this solution is extremely frustrating. The three week long vacations during the school year are necessities for many stressed and over-taxed students and teachers.

Additionally, students whose family members have already booked and paid for vacations will have to either miss several days of instruction, or sacrifice their parents’ money. Teachers, in many cases, may have planned to go away during the vacation, and may still choose to do so.

These pre-planned vacations may result a school week in which student and teacher absences are high, and those who do come to school are bitter about being there. This is not a conducive environment for academics.

While The Schreiber Times understands that extensive planning went into this, we wonder why the days could not have been taken in smaller pieces from other planned vacations.

The Schreiber Times is appreciative, however, that the school district chose not to interrupt vacations that coincide with important religious days of observance.

Still, because this sudden addition of school days falls during a time in which students expected to not have to be at school, The Schreiber Times suggests that the district not penalize students for absences on these days.

However the most frustration lies with the state, which continues to mandate that no schools operate on federal holidays such as Martin Luther King Day and Memorial Day, which would not have competed with serious vacation plans and would have likely produced higher attendance rates than the cancelled February break will.

It would be more helpful, still, if the state could make a motion to immediately waiver 180 day requirement, allowing schools to proceed as planned, without punishing students and teachers by eliminating vacation time.

It is unfair that the state has, so far, held strong on the 180-day requirement, because Hurricane Sandy was a legitimate natural disaster, which left many schools in New York State with no choice but to close. The state should not punish our schools by decreasing needed aid because of unavoidable closures.

Regardless, the shortening of President’s week vacation will without a doubt wreak havoc on many families and teachers in our district putting them in the precarious situation of either canceling flights and hotel reservations or using “sick days” and hoping that they don’t actually get sick later on.

The Schreiber Times understands the complexity of this issue and will continue to support administrators’ decisions, so long as they are just and fair towards the student body.