A growing number of Long Island students and their families face the loss of school holidays, as districts scramble to make up class time lost to the serial storms of March.
At least a half-dozen local school systems including Commack, Patchogue-Medford and William Floyd already have announced that classes will be held for one or two days during the first week of April — a period set aside this year for spring break.
Other districts have started cutting back on vacation time scheduled around Memorial Day in May — typically the Friday before — and dozens more could make their own calendar changes within the next several weeks, school leaders said.
While canceled breaks are a familiar occurrence in a region with fickle weather, the recent round of announcements is coming out unusually late in the academic year. This leaves students, parents and teachers with little time to plan spring vacation trips, or to cancel travel reservations if that becomes necessary.
Sakib Choudhury, 18, a senior at Centereach High School in Selden, has found himself in limbo. School officials in his Middle Country district had considered canceling at least one vacation day during spring break, but ultimately decided to leave the break in place and to find some other way of making up lost time.
Now, Choudhury hopes he can still make arrangements for an April vacation trip to Washington, D.C., he has wanted to make.
“The snow came so late this year, and students had to wait for the district’s decision,” said the 12th-grader, who serves as vice president of his school’s student government. “It makes it hard for students to know whether they can do something fun or not over spring break.”
Regional school representatives predicted that most districts in Nassau and Suffolk counties will have to make decisions on whether to cancel vacations in the weeks ahead, as they tally up instructional days swallowed by snow storms. Four nor’easters have struck the Island in March, including last week’s coastal storm that forced more than 100 districts in the region to shut down entirely for a day or two.
“I think every school board and every school administration is going to have this conversation,” said Lars Clemensen, president of the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association. Clemensen’s own district of Hampton Bays has scheduled a discussion of alternatives for making up lost classtime at a Tuesday board meeting.
Clemensen’s counterpart in Nassau County, David Flatley, agreed that the issue of making up instructional hours affects “just about every district” in his area. Flatley heads up the Carle Place district and is president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents.
Flatley noted that districts typically try to help the public prepare for possible calendar changes by marking certain dates as snow days. In years with little snow, such dates can be used to give students and staff extra time off, but in a year like this one, they are days when school is open.
“It’s not necessarily something that people are happy about, but it is something that people know about in advance,” the Carle Place chief said.
State rules require districts to provide at least 180 days of instruction annually. Up to four of those dates can be set aside as “superintendents conference days,” which are used for training of teachers and other staff with students not in school.
On Wednesday, the State Education Department offered a measure of relief to districts that might have trouble meeting the 180-day minimum.
In an advisory sent to school offices across the state, the agency said that districts could schedule one of those conference days on Monday, June 25, the first weekday after the state-designated end of the regular academic year. Normally, such days must be scheduled before schools close.
This is the second consecutive year that the department has taken such action — recognition, education officials said, of “extraordinary” weather conditions encountered by schools.
“Extraordinary” is the right word, many local educators agreed.
“Listen, when was the last time we had four nor’easters in three weeks?” said Bob Vecchio, board president in the William Floyd district and an executive-board member of the Nassau-Suffolk School Boards Association.
With Michael Ebert