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February Break Cut Short to Make Up Storm-Related School Closings

Three days of break to be turned into instructional days, and two additional days put aside for possible make-up snow days.

Board decides to take three days of the February break and turn them into instructional days. (Credit: Victoria Centrella)
Board decides to take three days of the February break and turn them into instructional days. (Credit: Victoria Centrella)
The Garden City Board of Education (BOE) devised a plan to make up days lost due to Superstorm Sandy at a special meeting Monday.

According to the plan, which was presented by the board, three days of the February break would be turned into instructional days, and two additional days would be put aside for possible make-up snow days, satisfying the state's 180-day requirement.

“We are in an unusual situation due to the days we have lost from Superstorm Sandy,” superintendent of schools Dr. Robert Feirsen said. “We lost seven days due to this storm.”

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Superintendent conference days, along with parent/teacher conference days, are considered instructional days by the state and factor into the days lost.

“With the four superintendent and parent conference days, we are short three days,” Feirsen said.

The commissioner of education may or may not decide to forgive a district up to five days of their 180-day requirement. However, according to state regulations, a district must attempt to make the 180 days by any means necessary, including using vacation time.

“I would recommend that we reclaim the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the February break, the 20, 21, 22 of the recess as instructional days,” said Feirsen.

“I would also recommend that we designate Tuesday, Feb. 19 and Monday, April 1, as snow make-up days. This would mean if we had a snow day before the old February break, we would automatically have school on Feb. 19. If we had more than that, or a day subsequent to that, we would hold classes on Monday, April 1.”

A father of a Garden City middle schooler didn't understand why the district would designate that Tuesday as a snow day rather than an instructional day.

"What steps has the board thought about in getting the middle school students caught up to the high schoolers and the grammar school students?" he asked. "My son was out of school for two weeks, then to have Veterans Day on top of it. What would happen if you had the students come to school on Saturday?"

"Aside from renegotiating the labor agreement, paying the custodians overtime and arranging transportation, they don't count as attendance days," Dr. Feirsen replied.

Another parent added, "Just to ease everyone's mind, I've had kids go through AP classes and Regents and there is always enough time for review, even in the classroom. So maybe instead of a week and a half review, they have a week of review. I think personally they aren't missing that much, they always get through the work."

Dr. Feirsen and the board also devised ways to reschedule parent/teacher conferences, eliminate excess field trips, eliminate non-essential special assemblies and “anything that will take the kids out of the classrooms,” he said.

“There is no perfect solution to this,” said board president Colleen Foley. “We’d all like to take a 1 for 1.”

The next Board of Education work session will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 4, at 8:15 p.m. at the Administration Building.


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