Educators worried another storm will squeeze school days

Long Island educators are worried how they will

Long Island educators are worried how they will make up lost instructional time if there is another bad storm. Photo Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

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Long Island educators are worried how they will make up lost instructional time if there is another bad storm.

"Right now most districts are OK, but if we continue to have bad weather after the February break it is going to be a big problem," said David Feller, president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents and superintendent of the North Merrick school district. "So far, we are actually in pretty good shape."

Districts must have 180 instructional days, and nearly all build snow days into their calendars. Before Thursday's storm, North Merrick had trimmed one day from the April spring break and designated the Friday before Memorial Day as a makeup day. The district also has added a day in June, at the end of the school year, Feller said.

In the 2012-13 school year, after schools were closed for unprecedented periods because of superstorm Sandy in October 2012 and a nor'easter the following month, 89 of the Island's 124 school districts used two to five days during the February break.

For most, next week's midwinter break comes "too soon" to use days for makeup time, said Roberta Gerold, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and superintendent in the Middle Country district.

Middle Country school officials built three snow days into the calendar around Memorial Day. The district will use those, as well as the Monday after the April break, as school days.

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Gerold said her district initially opted on Wednesday night for a delayed opening Thursday morning. Then, looking at the weather, school officials made the decision at about 7 a.m. to close schools.

"About 6:30 a.m., it started coming down a little faster, and one of my assistants said, 'If we bring them in, we are going to have to send them home,' " Gerold said.

Nearly all Long Island public schools were closed Thursday. A handful of districts -- Bayport-Blue Point, East Hampton, Greenport, Sag Harbor and Westhampton Beach -- opened with a two-hour delay. Wyandanch schools sent students home early, according to the district's website.

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Bayport-Blue Point got complaints from some parents for sticking with a two-hour delayed opening. Superintendent Vincent Butera said in a statement that officials made that call about 7 a.m. based on weather conditions at the time and the forecast for the rest of the day.

"Since the forecast predicted that the snow would change over to rain, and the main roads, access and entrance to school buildings were accessible, the district decided to open school after the delay," Butera said.

Pam Varacek, a parent from Blue Point who has a daughter in the high school and a son in the middle school, said classes should have been canceled. "I don't see the reason to put the kids at that kind of risk or the teachers," she said.

In Westhampton Beach, district officials delayed openings at the middle school and the high school but closed the elementary school. Westhampton parent Irina Richardson, who has a son in the middle school, said she got word of the two-hour delayed opening in a call after 5 a.m. "There was the possibility that it would turn to rain, but when it gets to 6 to 6:30 and it is still snowing, you can't take that chance anymore," she said. With Michael R. Ebert

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