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Districts to vote on canceling midwinter breaks

The entrance to Smithtown High School West on

The entrance to Smithtown High School West on Feb. 20, 2012. Credit: Erin Geismar

The Kings Park and Smithtown school boards are expected to vote Tuesday to give up a four-day February recess, joining other Long Island districts that have canceled midwinter breaks to regain instruction time lost to superstorm Sandy.

The decisions won’t affect holidays such as Presidents Day, when state law mandates that schools close.

In letters sent to parents or posted on district websites, school officials said districts risk losing state aid if they do not scrub their winter breaks. In addition, school officials said they were reluctant to give up a planned Passover and Easter week recess in late March.

Officials also worry they might face more lost time because of snow storms.

“We really don’t have any alternative,” Smithtown school board president Gladys Waldron said last week. “Can you imagine if you had to go to school on the Jewish holidays or Good Friday?”

State lawmakers from Long Island have proposed bills shortening the 180-day school year by up to 10 days in districts affected by the storm. But the waiver would not take effect unless all available vacation days have been used, said state Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport), the proponent of one such bill.

He said he expects the Assembly and Senate bills to pass, though it is not clear whether the Legislature will reconvene before the end of the year.

“If we have a horrific winter, we could have a situation where people have used their vacation days and they’ll still have a problem,” Flanagan said.

Waldron said extending the school year into July is not feasible because classes cannot be held after Regents exams scheduled for June. Those exams cannot be postponed, she said.

Canceling vacations might be a hardship for some families planning trips, Waldron said, adding she heard from parents who purchased nonrefundable airline tickets or booked ski trips in February.

“People have said they have tickets already,” Waldron said. “Really, our hands are tied.”

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