West Hempstead public schools will be closed on Presidents Day afterall.
Although the Board of Education unanimously approved a resolution in late November to cancel the entire February 2013 break (Feb. 18 to Feb. 22) to make-up for instructional time lost due to Superstorm Sandy, it changed the school calendar once more Tuesday night.
During its special business meeting on Jan. 22, the board voted to restore Presidents Day (Feb. 18) as a vacation day and instead convert April 1 to an instructional day.
West Hempstead Schools Superintendent John Hogan told Patch that the board decided to make these changes due to "transportation issues" associated with the federal holiday.
Students will now be expected to report to school on Feb. 19 to Feb. 22, and April 1, or else they will be credited with "illegal absences."
All schools districts in New York are required to have a minimum of 180 instructional days on their calendars each year. Two of these days can be superintendent's conference days, when only faculty need to report. The New York State Education Commissioner could waive five days from the 180-day requirement, and the state legislature could waive an additional five more, as it did last year for some districts upstate that suffered severe flooding from Hurricane Irene.
However, at a meeting Hogan attended in late 2012, he was told that in order for districts to be eligible for the waivers, should they be granted, they must first demonstrate a "good faith effort" to restore instructional days from what would be considered discretionary vacation time.
"We're not in winter yet, which is something that the commissioner understands," Hogan stated at the board's Nov. 20 business meeting. "He understands that in New York, and on Long Island especially, it's not a far stretch that we may have to take an additional two days depending on the winter we face." (In 2011-12, West Hempstead took no snow days, but in 2010-11, it used three.)
West Hempstead went into the 2012-2013 school year with 182 scheduled instructional days, including two superintendent's conference days, but lost seven in late October and early November as a result of Superstorm Sandy and the Nor'easter that followed, bringing that number down to 175.
Although President's Day is a federal holiday, districts did have the option to schedule classes that day. Hogan's intitial recommendation to the board called for keeping Feb. 18 a vacation day and taking April 1 instead, but Trustee Vincent Trocchia suggested the board make Presidents Day a school day while leaving the April 1 vacation day intact. Trocchia's reasoning was that this would preserve the full spring break. It would also give the board the option -- should the district have to use a snow day this winter -- to then take April 1 if it needs to in order to maintain 180 instructional days, assuming the waivers are not granted.
If the district has to take more than one snow day this winter and the waivers are not approved, then the board will need to look at taking back additional vacation days in 2013.
The days between Christmas and New Year's, as well as the Easter/Passover vacation days could be turned into school days also, but Hogan said he would not advise the board to do this unless it had no other option.
"These days are not only traditional but deemed by many people to be significantly religious," Hogan said. "I told the commissioner, 'You'd have to direct me to take those days before I would take them.'"
What do you think of the new school calendar? Will they impact your family's vacation plans? Tell us in the comments section.