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Kings Park, Smithtown schools set makeup classes

Joining other Long Island schools that lost instruction

Joining other Long Island schools that lost instruction time due to superstorm Sandy, the Smithtown, Kings Park and Hauppauge districts are set to cancel February winter breaks. Credit: Ed Betz

The Smithtown and Kings Park school boards each voted unanimously Tuesday night to cancel most of the districts' February break, to make up days lost to superstorm Sandy.

Smithtown must make up three days of class instruction, while Kings Park needs six days. Both boards decided that students will attend school on four of the five days scheduled for midwinter break -- Feb. 19-22. In Kings Park, classes will also be held May 24, which had been a scheduled off day. The sixth missed day was turned into a superintendent's conference day.

In Smithtown, holding school four days gives the district one snow day.

Several districts across Long Island have called off all or part of the February break. Districts are required to have a 180-day school calendar to receive state aid.

"There's been a lot of talk about waivers and maybe the state will release us from days," said Kings Park Superintendent Susan Agruso at the board meeting. "That sounds really nice unless you're studying for the AP exam in May. The tests don't get any easier. There are no check boxes that say, 'We had a hurricane.' "

More than 150 people attended the three-hour meeting at Kings Park High School. Some were drawn by student recognition ceremonies, while others came to debate options for making up days. Sarah Slotnick, 17, a senior at Kings Park High, said in an interview that she was "not impressed" by the decision to eliminate most of winter break.

"It gets very tiresome, and I feel like us students need that break to replenish ourselves," she said. "I just really don't think that they took into consideration the student perspective."

A parent, Cheryl Michael, of Kings Park, asked the board to consider taking a few days from three scheduled breaks, instead of using most of the February one, so everyone could share the burden of changing their plans.

"People have lost enough . . . everybody has to take responsibility for this part of the crisis that we're in," said Michael, who plans to cancel her family's vacation to Florida -- at a loss of $600 for nonrefundable tickets -- so her two young children won't have to worry about being behind on instruction or homework.

Smithtown Superintendent Anthony Annunziato said there were no questions or comments from community members about makeup days at the school board meeting.

"It's a difficult decision, simply because the circumstances are extraordinary," he said. "But I think it's the right decision. There's no reason for the district to risk loss of state aid."

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