School May Be in Session on Presidents, MLK Days
Superintendent asks board members to consider restoring school days on upcoming holidays to make up for snow absences.
Superstorm Sandy not only caused Montville residents to lose power. The storm also caused Montville schools to lose snow days. All of them.
Superintendent Dr. Paul Fried told Montville Township Board of Education members Monday that the district currently had -1 snow days left after schools were without power and closed for nearly a week following Sandy. Initially, the district had planned to make up any snow days over the four permitted by reducing the number of days students are on spring break, which begins March 25. However, as the district is already without a snow day allowance and it is only the begnning of January, Fried presented another option on Monday: to bring students in for a half day on Martin Luther King Day (Jan. 21) and for a full day on Presidents Day (Feb. 18).
Jan. 21 was initially intended to be an in-service day for teachers, with students out. Fried said he would still have teachers spend two-and-a-half hours on professional development but students would be in school for four hours. On Presidents Day, a national holiday, students would be in session for a full day.
By bringing students back to school on just Jan. 21, Fried said the district would already make up the used day, however, if another snow day were needed, the district would then have to take off of the March break unless Presidents Day were to become a school day. He said he has received feedback from the community that indicates parents would prefer for students to have the full week off in March.
If the board were to vote to have students attend school on Feb. 18 and additional snow days were needed, school days would then still need to be added to the March break. However, if the snow day gained by the Feb. 18 additional school day were not used, Fried said he would create a four-day weekend on the Memorial Day break.
"I think, in a cooperative effort with the [Montville Township Education Association (MTEA)], this possible solution becomes doable," Fried said.
Fried told the board that he has already reached out to representatives of the MTEA and that teachers were amenable to school being in session on Feb. 18 and with the change proposed for Jan. 21. But not all board members were initially in agreement.
Board Member Jackie Ritschel said she was concerned about the length of time students would be without a break.
"It makes sense to take it away, but on the other side, there'd be no break for the kids in February," she said.
In the future, Ritschel said she would like to see the board consider adding vacation days in February to the school calendar to provide more of a cushion in case of situations like this year's. Fried said the 2013-14 school calendar had already been created, but that this year's calendar situation has him thinking it may need further review.
Board Member Charles Grau said he thought the board should stick with the plan to reduce days from the March break, as initially communicated to parents. But as discussion continued, board members seemed to change their minds as Fried explained that he was suggesting the change based on the interests of the community.
Fried also said it is possible attendance would be low if school is restored on Feb. 18, but that he has seen neighboring districts recommend other scenarios that are not being looked upon favorably by the state.
"I don't think using a Saturday is productive. I do think that the students will not show up," he said.
Ritschel said she was happy that the district administrators were thinking about ways to make up the days while suiting the community.
"I think this is very proactive and I think that it should be applauded," she said.
Some board members seemed ready to make a decision at Monday's meeting, but others said they wanted to reach out to the community for input. Ultimately, the board was not able to vote on the calendar change Monday as the meeting was advertised as a reorganization meeting only, without further action to be taken.
The board will continue to discuss the change at the Jan. 15 meeting and take a vote then on whether school will be in session for students on Jan. 21.
What do you think? Should students attend school on Martin Luther King Day and Presidents Day to make up for the snow days or should days be taken off of the March break? Participate in our poll below and tell us your thoughts in the comments.