Snow days create confusion during midterm week

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Josh White

Anticipated blizzard takes its toll on midterm week and creates scheduling problems. The photo shows the thick flurries piling in a students’ backyard.

Maddie Reiter, Staff Writer

School districts across Long Island have been closing school due to dangerous weather conditions created by recent snowstorms.  Despite the safety precautions taken, there have still been concerns amongst students and parents.  Not only have these snow days, including the unusual chain of a delayed opening on Monday, no school on Tuesday, and a delayed opening on Wednesday during midterm week, caused confusion, but they have also sparked controversy.

The first major storm of the season fell during midterm week. As predictions for the storm worsened, administrators began to prepare for the possibility of a snow day.

“Snow day determination is something that comes from the superintendent,” said Principal Mr. Ira Pernick.  “I sometimes get a phone call from the superintendent letting me know that a snow day may happen based on the forecast.  This call may come the night before or at 5:00 in the morning, depending on the nature of the storm.  Dr. Mooney began discussing the midterm storm with the assistant principals and myself on Sunday.”

Because this storm was arriving during midterm week, the decision to cancel school was especially complicated.

“We spoke about the possibilities,” said Mr. Pernick.  “It was supposed to be 30 inches of snow, so we were questioning how long we were going to be out of school for, what do we do if this happens, or if this happens, and so on.”

Throughout the process, students were interested in finding out whether or not they would be having their exams on their intended dates.

“The snow was really distracting and made me worry if my midterms would be changed to a different date,” said junior Sophie Lipstein.

Students voiced their concerns on social media, especially on Twitter.  In anticipation for answers, students furiously tweeted @SchrieberPrin asking about the revised midterm schedule.  However, many of the reply tweets expressed inconclusiveness.  As a result of the administration’s uncertainty, students were unsure of what to study and how much they had to study for a specific test.

“A number of different factors weighed on us when making this decision,” said Mr. Pernick.  “The uncertainty of the storm forced us to take a look at a number of different options.  Because we didn’t know how long we would be out of school at the beginning of the week, we first considered making up canceled midterms on Thursday and Friday.  In this case we would be doing exactly what we wanted to avoid: over testing.  We knew that we wanted the second semester to start on time.”

A delayed opening was decided for that Monday, and decisions for the next few days were made thereafter.

“Before we were dismissed on Monday, I met with the department chairs and assistant principals and we discussed all of the different options and what would be the easiest thing for us to do,” said Mr. Pernick.  “Because there were so many questions about it, we thought the best solution was to drop out whatever we have to drop out, figure out what to do with the things that were missed, and leave everything else in place.”

Eventually, the school sent out an e-mail to all parents, notifying everyone about the plan for updating the schedule. The e-mail stated, “Given the anticipated magnitude of this storm it is possible we will be out of school for even longer.  Makeup exams and contingency plans have been developed and can be viewed below.”  The administration ruled that final exams for first semester classes would not take place. Therefore, course grades were determined based solely upon student efforts in the first and second quarters. In addition, qualifying exams, such as the Social Science Research Qualifying Exam and Science Research Qualifying Exam, were rescheduled to take place after school. School reopened Wed. Jan. 28 with a delayed opening, and tests on and following that day were given at the original day and time.  The teachers whose midterms were canceled had to decide how they would handle the situation on their own.  While some teachers decided that students would take shortened versions of the tests when they returned to class, others decided to cancel their tests altogether.

“Although none of my midterms were altered, I felt that it was unfair that some students had canceled midterms while others still had to take them,” said sophomore Mallory Winick.  “It would have been better if all the teachers agreed on a final solution”.

Although some might argue that the midterm scheduling was handled poorly, some commend administration for being cautious.

“I remember my mother being extremely nervous about driving under these conditions, even though she is a confident and experienced driver,” said freshman Nealie Silverstein.  “I don’t blame the school for taking safety precautions, the administration was just trying not to put anyone at risk of danger.”

Regarding future snow days, the district has no more days off built into the calendar as of press time. There are a number of possibilities if another snow day is needed. Ultimately, the superintendent makes the decision. Dr. Kathleen Mooney would discuss possible decisions such as taking days from vacation with the school board, administrators, teachers, and parents.

“We understand that every solution to every problem isn’t always elegant,” said Mr. Pernick.  “We’re working with a lot of unknowns when it comes to snowstorms. All you can do is try to put together a system that makes sense. This situation doesn’t occur often and could have been handled differently, but would it have been better or worse?  Who knows?”