The first day of school will vary for Long Island’s public school students, with seven different starting dates in the 124 districts across Nassau and Suffolk counties — and systems opening for classes from Aug. 26 to Sept. 10.
Jericho will be the first to start classes as students return Aug. 26, and four other districts return on Aug. 31. In September, 44 districts start classes on the first of the month and 29 districts on Sept. 2. After Labor Day, seven districts start classes Sept. 8, 38 start Sept. 9 and one school system — Floral Park-Bellerose — is the last to open, on Sept 10.
There are several holidays impacting the school calendar this year. Labor Day falls on Sept. 6. Most systems are off Sept. 7 and 8 for the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah. Some districts have recently added days off throughout the school year to recognize the Islamic holiday of Eid al-Fitr in May, India’s Diwali festival in November and Lunar New Year in February. State law requires districts to hold 180 days of school, though some systems have more than that.
Jericho’s school year lasts 186 days, and the district is hoping for a return to full in-person learning without a remote option.
"The more time that we can have kids in our buildings for the 2021-22 school year, the better," said Superintendent Henry L. Grishman. "And we strongly believe that kids are best-educated when they are receiving direct live instruction and interaction in our school buildings."
Each district does its own scheduling of class days and time allotted for staff development, or so-called superintendent’s days. The calendar is often negotiated with a district’s teachers’ union.
Grishman — like many administrators across Long Island — is awaiting guidance from the state on issues such as whether masks will be required for students and staff and whether school systems will continue to offer a remote option. Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended indoor masks for all teachers, staff and students, regardless of vaccination status. The final policy will depend on the mandates of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the state Department of Health.
The district negotiated with its teachers union more than 10 years ago to add days of instruction with the "philosophy that more is better," Grishman said.
‘A challenging calendar’
Plainview-Old Bethpage Superintendent Mary O’Meara said her district is planning a full reopening when school starts Sept. 9. School officials are waiting to see "if we are required to offer a remote option and if students and staff are required to wear masks," she said.
Staff will report to the district for two conference days on Sept. 1 and 2 to prepare for the year. This schedule gives teachers ample time to set up their classrooms and familiarize themselves with any changes in the curriculum, she said.
"We knew it was a challenging calendar," O’Meara said. "Our main goal was to make sure once we open schools there would be as little interruption as possible and teachers have time to adjust should there be any guidance changes."
In the Roosevelt district, the first day falls on Sept. 2. Superintendent Deborah Wortham said the school calendar is set by a committee that includes teachers, staff and even students. The district takes into consideration the schedules of neighboring districts as well as when state assessments are scheduled when building the calendar.
Wortham said there are 181 days for students and three conference days for teachers, with the district planning for a full return this school year for all students. Students and staff will wear masks during the school day, and if the district has to pivot from its plans, the superintendent said officials are prepared.
"It is definitely an ongoing process," Wortham said.
Shoreham-Wading River schools start Sept. 2. Superintendent Gerard Poole said that starting after Labor Day and the Jewish holidays "felt really late especially this year as students get back to normal." Educators did not want children to have "an even longer gap of not being in school," he said.
An earlier start also allows the district not to run school during the last week of June. The district runs a 181-day school year for students, with three conference days for staff. With the first day of classes approaching, Poole said he is hopeful for clear direction from the state.
"It can’t come soon enough," he said. "I know it is not an easy decision for them, but they have to make one so we can use that information to get ready for the school year. It is only fair for students and families."