Despite Sandy, school should come first for LI kids

Students arrive at Lindell Elementary School for the

Students arrive at Lindell Elementary School for the first time since superstorm Sandy. (Nov. 13, 2012) (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

A majority of Long Island school districts may turn their scheduled midwinter breaks into instruction days.

That's good.

Because between superstorm Sandy and the massive blackout and cleanup that followed, too many children in Nassau and Suffolk counties lost too many crucial school days.


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Will swapping scheduled vacation time for newly scheduled school time cause challenges?

Absolutely.

Some parents, teachers and school district staffers may have to change vacation plans. Some movie houses, child-care facilities and other enterprises that count on vacation business boosts will lose them.

But isn't school -- foremost -- supposed to be about educating students? And for some students, time lost during Sandy amounted to two full weeks or more.

That's a lot of class time, a lot of lessons planned but not taught.

There's a reason state education department rules require that districts exhaust scheduled non-class time -- otherwise known as school season vacations -- before being considered for waivers.

Yes, it is likely that fewer students will attend classes during a canceled vacation week. Although -- despite some assertions to the contrary -- it is difficult to believe that a majority of Long Island's parents and children pack up and go away.

What's more likely is that some parents won't -- or can't -- take the financial hit of canceling a family vacation, although there will be other parents who save money this year on vacation child care.

But the discussion on missed school days shouldn't hinge on who takes vacation or who saves on child care.

It's supposed to be about the children. Right? Isn't that why we have 124 school districts? And why the vast majority of Long Islanders -- whether they have children in school or not -- vote yes on school budgets every year?

Yes, parents take children out of school on any regular school day for a variety of reasons, from doctor appointments to sports competitions. Most parents, however, do so with the expectation that their child will make up missed work.

But there's a difference between one or two days of missed lessons and one or two weeks of lost class time.

There's a measure pending in Albany that would excuse districts that decide not to make up lost time. That won't even be considered until January -- which makes moves by school districts now to cancel midwinter vacations smart.

Some may not want to wait on Albany, and face the prospect -- if the measure fails -- of canceling scheduled spring or other later-school-year breaks.

But, especially as Long Island begins rebuilding post-Sandy, the best reason is that school districts -- along with residents, most of whom don't have kids in school -- want to ensure that our children are not shortchanged.

They've made it through dark and cold nights. And too many are now coping with lost homes, and for a few, lost parents. Schools and exceptional student performance, traditionally, have been a source of Long Island's pride, its strength.

Keep the children first. They need it now, more than ever.