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Long IslandEducation

Plainview-Old Bethpage schools make the best of no winter break

Old Bethpage Elementary School students Lena Hemmerdinger, 8,

Old Bethpage Elementary School students Lena Hemmerdinger, 8, left, and Sarah Bluestein, 8, right, dressed as their favorite book characters during school on Feb. 16, 2016. The Plainview-Old Bethpage district is one of the only Long Island public school systems in session this week; most are closed for winter break. Credit: Johnny Milano

Classes are in session for Plainview-Old Bethpage students Tuesday through Friday — a time when all of Long Island’s 124 public school districts traditionally are closed for winter break.

Educators in the Nassau district of nearly 4,900 students, well aware of their status as an exception, are striving to “try to make it a week that is worth being here,” Superintendent Lorna Lewis said.

Several special events, including theme days, are planned. Students at Old Bethpage Elementary School dressed up Tuesday as their favorite book characters, and the high school is hosting a “Battle of the Classes Week.”

Lewis said she believes Plainview-Old Bethpage is the only district in Nassau holding classes this week. In Suffolk County, Susan Schnebel, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association, said she was unaware of any Suffolk district in session this week.

Plainview-Old Bethpage’s situation stems from a combination of factors: a late Labor Day; a related stipulation in the district’s contract with its teachers; and the gap this year between Easter, on March 27, and Passover, which begins on Friday, April 22 and ends April 30.

Labor Day fell on Sept. 7, and the district’s teachers contract specifies a start date after Labor Day. Teachers reported to the classroom Sept. 8, and students arrived Sept. 9.

The customary spring break period is affected by how the dates of Passover and Easter fall. In many years, those religious days occur at about the same time.

But with the gap between them this year, many districts are splitting the time off into two sections. In Plainview Old-Bethpage, students are scheduled to be off March 24-28 and April 25-29.

The calendar could only stretch so far.

State law requires districts to hold 180 days of school — as does Plainview-Old Bethpage — though some systems have more than that. Each district does its own scheduling of days when class is in session and time allotted for staff development, or so-called superintendent’s days. Days for state tests and snow days also had to be figured in.

Lewis, knowing that the 2015-16 year would pose a special challenge, said she let parents know two years ahead of time about the need to hold classes during winter break and the other oddities in the calendar.

This week, teachers and staff are joining in the effort to keep students engaged, she said. They are having a Faculty Spirit Week, dressing up in athletic jerseys, beachwear, college attire and POB shirts.

“We don’t want the kids to feel like they are being punished when their cousins and friends are on vacation,” Lewis said.


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