Moms Talk: How Would You Like To See School Days Made Up?
Hurricane Sandy has left us with a deficit of eight school days to make up. What approach do you favor?
One can hardly say that school days are completely back to normal, even though Bernards Schools now are back in session for regular hours after two full weeks of being closed.
Bernards Schools reopened on a two-hour delayed start schedule on Monday, just a day or so after the last school building regained power in a municipality where power outages dragged out for two weeks after Hurricane Sandy.
Schools Superintendent Nick Markarian noted at Monday night's board meeting that the two-hour delay allowed parents and buses to find their way along streets that still had not been cleared of storm debris and wires, as well as to readjust in homes where power may have not yet, or had just been, restored. Teachers also needed to regroup after an absence that no one could have expected.
Even those of us who thought we were in the clear had some glitches. Early Tuesday morning, our own nine-day power outage made a brief return, shutting off the alarm set for regular school wake-up time.
It's been tough, and no one has the glow or renewed energy that typically follows a nice long vacation. As one mother noted at Monday's board meeting, the time off for most wasn't exactly quality time with the family.
Be that as it may, the district now is faced with the question of how to make up those lost eight scheduled school days, a subject discussed by board members and parents alike at Monday's board meeting.
The issue is due to come up again at the next scheduled school board meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 26, at the William Annin Middle School.
Luckily, last Thursday and Friday would have been days off anyway to accommodate the annual state teachers convention in Atlantic City, canceled anyway in the aftermath of the hurricane.
That reduces the deficit to eight days. And the district of course dipped into its three-day reserve of closings for inclement weather. (Of course we're only in mid-November here, so who knows what the next few months will hold?)
Initially, the school website announced that the spring break in April had been eliminated, which in fact is consistent with what is printed on the school calendar each and every year as far as handling of excessive snow days.
But no school calendar ever anticipated two full weeks without school. So, on Monday night, board members wrestled with the question of how to not burn out students and staff by giving no break for prolonged periods of time, offset by the need to end the school year at a reasonable date and also the requirement to meet certain contractual needs.
This school year already ends a few days later than in the past — on June 26. And Board President Susan McGowan said that graduation can't be pushed back, nor can the school year be extended beyond June 30. Not that anyone would want to do either of those things, anyway.
The current majority opinion on the board seems to be to take two days off from each weeklong vacation scheduled in February and in April. And to take back the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, scheduled just a few weeks after winter break, which until recently had been acknowledged with programs held during a regular school day.
That, of course, assumes we have no severe weather this winter. Or — dare I say it? — additional power outages.
At least one parent publicly voiced the opinion that he had already booked vacation plans for April. Should vacations be a concern of the school district? And should parents who plan so far in advance be aware that, even in a normal year, a day or two might be shaved off that vacation for inclement weather?
And what about those who were planning to use days off for college visits, as pointed out by Board Member Michael Byrnes?
Cutting two days off each weeklong vacation would mean that students who already had plans wouldn't miss more than two days of schools, board members reasoned. And teachers might be asked to post homework assignments ahead, it was suggested.
But what happens if school is called off again? Where would those days come from?
One suggestion, even as an alternative to cutting other days, was to hold a shortened school day on Saturday. Would that work for you?
(Update: At Wednesday's Somerset Hills Board of Education meeting, Schools Superintendent Peter Miller said he had been told that the state only would allow Saturday school when all other options had been exhausted.)
Meanwhile, what about the Oak Street Elementary School, which already lost a day at the beginning of this school year due to a burst water main. When should those students attend an extra day of school?
Would you mind having the last day of school a day or so later? Or would that cause problems for you?
Do you like the proposal on the table, or would you favor another solution?
What about a backup plan?
Meanwhile, parents of preschoolers asked that their program, which includes many special needs students, have some sort of mechanism for making up lost days when delayed-openings are held. The suggestion was that a make-up day could be held on a Friday, when the program now is normally not held. What do you think of that idea?
Please let us know in the comments section below, and as always, thanks for letting us know what's on your mind.