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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 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.

LCB@home November 14, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Please don't hack up winter break in addition to spring! Just take spring. BTW - why didn't we get back the unused snow days from last year - ending school earlier last June? When do the snow days count, and when do they not?
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) November 14, 2012 at 10:37 PM
School officials said on Monday that the state does not allow districts to "bank" snow days not used up from previous years.
Christina Ehret November 14, 2012 at 10:44 PM
I think the concern is not having any wiggle room if we have bad weather days after February break. We can't tack days on to the end of the year as that interferes with graduation and getting transcripts to college. Given the grim winter weather reports, my guess is we will lose April break regardless.
Shirley Titus November 15, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Should extending the school day by an hour, Monday thru Friday be an option? Since students and teachers are already in school an additional hour may not be too bad. Few shortened school days on Saturday and taking back Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday can also be an option. I would prefer not to take away days from Winter / Spring breaks, since some students do use that time to prepare for SAT's, AP's and college visits.
gold November 15, 2012 at 01:06 PM
When we missed all those days, I canceled our spring break plans because policy states days will be made up taking back April break first. Want to change this policy for 2013/14 year? Great, but leave it alone for those of us who plan according to policy.
Lynn Antieri November 15, 2012 at 01:34 PM
Go with the school policy and take the entire April break. This should not even be a discussion. This is clearly stated in policy and poeple should make their plans with the knowledge that in extreme circumstances the April break is in jeopardy of being cancelled. The winter had not even begun yet so anything decided now may change anyway. Winter weather is too unpredictable to assume we may not have more days off to make up for in April. I feel for the people that did plan April break but policy is stated clearly every year.
Shirley Titus November 15, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Sorry - I was just expressing my personal preference since this was brought up as a topic of discussion. But if the most people feel that taking away spring break is the best, so be it.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) November 15, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Certainly, I'm asking people to express their personal opinions. But, to Shirley's point, it was said at the meeting that the state would NOT count extra hours in an extended school day, so that was not an option. However, it was suggested.
LCB@home November 15, 2012 at 02:56 PM
Thank you. I was referring to the unused days last year that we were not credited for last year. I am wondering if there is a way, looking forward now, to get credit for snow days if we don't use them this year, either.
Elizabeth November 15, 2012 at 03:31 PM
When people book spring break holidays, they usually do so with the understanding that one or two days MIGHT be taken away for excessive snow days. But who could have planned that we'd lose the entire week?? I don't even recall losing a single day in the last 10 years, much less the week. So it's not unreasonable that people spent money they might not be able to get back booking holidays that week. Most make their decision knowing their child's learning style- some kids can handle a few missed days without falling behind, some can't. It's a gamble many take because let's face it, booking vacations or family visits in some areas during Christmas, July, or August just isn't practical. For example, we have family in England, and flight prices are twice as high in the summer than what they are in the winter/spring. In a family of 5, the additional cost is prohibitive. It can make the difference between seeing aging grandparents once a year or not at all. It's not just a matter of being spoiled or priveleged. It just isn't in the best interests of the students and teachers to stick to the hard line of 'stated policy', especially since 'stated policy' has NEVER been used for anything but a potential spare snow day. It simply wasn't designed to ameliorate attendance problems created by a natural disaster of this scope.
HS, MS & Elementary Student Parent November 15, 2012 at 03:37 PM
I think your preference is probably dictated by the age of your oldest student in the district. I think the removal of Spring Break will affect the high schoolers a great deal. This is a very popular time for juniors and seniors to look at colleges and/or study for SATs, APs, etc. I also think it will increase high schoolers' level of "burn out" without a break after February. I noticed with my freshman student last year that there was a drop off in concentration as soon as all the other schools in the area started getting out of school (we seem to have one of the latest end dates in the country.) It will be interesting to see if these factors as well as the change from midterms and finals to quarterly tests being averaged into marking period grades have an impact on GPAs. Hopefully the high school administrators will consider these options and modify policies as necessary regardless of the decision on scheduling the make-up dates. I signed the petition for Governor Christie to shorten the school year.
HBSR November 15, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Since the Board is still thinking and taking in parents suggestions, at this point I think they should do 2 from winter, 2 from spring, if we need more snow days then we take away the other long weekends. I guess they will have to take it one month at a time, anyways by March we would know for sure how many more days of vacation we need to use up. If we had Irene last year and Sandy this year, we should be mentally prepared to adjust, the Board should just follow the policy. Saturday should not be an option at all unless we are hit so bad by the winter storms and have exhausted all of Feb, April and the other days off. Children have recreational sports programs until March, the High School children have Forensic programs and to top it the Board will have to pay extra for busing and not sure if the Teachers will also have to be paid extra for working Saturdays. I think we should just amicably adjust to the policies.
Dr. Joseph J. Murphy November 15, 2012 at 04:16 PM
I think the Winter break should be the one to go, since many times plans are interrupted with weather in February anyway. Most people plan their Spring break far in advance; make plane reservations, etc., so it is much more invasive to delete that vacation. I do think the full week is better than a few days from each vacation either way. (I can only speak for myself because our kids are in elementary school. When we had kids in Ridge, we couldn't go away anyway due to their sports schedule, so we are taking advantage of it while we can!)
Nancy November 15, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Since the children recently lost 2 weeks, and got back to school in time to take another 2 days off for Thanksgiving and then back a few weeks before they get a Christmas break, I think it is reasonable to keep the momentum going and not take a Christmas break in this case. They are just getting back into the swing of things and more days off! I am looking at this for the advantage of the children. They will have a Thanksgiving break and 2 days for the Eve and Christmas Day. I really never understood why they needed so many breaks throughtout the school year. They are suppose to be getting an education. It would be interesting to see how the kids would vote in this case as well.
Linda Sadlouskos (Editor) November 15, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Good question, Nancy. What do students think is the best solution?
Endjin November 16, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Thanksgiving break is next week, shortly after is Christmas break, MLK day, then winter break, Good Friday and spring break to follow, and oh, dont forget over 10 weeks of summer holidays... And may I start from September to list all the days kids had off....WHY???? Why on earth??? I better shut ... Before I get too .... And start packing our family to go to a place where education is not just a suggestion and free babysitting place...
parent of WAMS and RHS students November 16, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Haven't heard much mention of the fact that many people already have plans for the February break as well. Even though we do have plans, I am in favor of 2 days off each vacation and school MLK day. If we need to take additional days though, those should come from Spring break as that is the stated policy. School should not be extended - it is already too late in June as it is. If the calendar is being reconsidered - has any thought been given to starting earlier in the fall???
Shirley Titus November 16, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Thanks Linda!
rescue November 18, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Most school districts in the country start before Labor Day, have 1 winter/spring break or non, and are out at the begining of June when it starts to get hot. in addidtion, we are the only district locally that still has a winter and a spring break. If your child is in sports there are no breaks anyway. The kids are playing games during break because no one else has the week off. Let's get with the program!

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