Central Bucks School District students will make up only three of the five days lost to Superstorm Sandy.
After prolonged discussion Tuesday night, the school board voted 7-1 to re-schedule February 1 and April 1 from staff development days to regular class days, and to make June 19 the last day of school.
Employees, including teachers, will make up all five days.
Superintendent Dr. Rodney Green said he reluctantly recommended cutting the two instructional days after hearing from parents and staff members that the school year already extends too far into June, when hot weather and un-air conditioned schools make for a lousy learning environment.
“It’s probably less than ideal,” he admitted. “In some respects, you would like to say we’ll make up everything that was planned. But the feeling among people I talked to was that this was such an unusual event that to make up three days is a reasonable solution considering how late the school year already goes.”
Central Bucks schools were closed for five days, from Oct. 29 through Nov. 2, because of the storm. Power was out in several schools, but Green said the main concern was that it would have been impossible to safety transport nearly 20,000 students with so many roads closed.
When the school board approved this year's calendar, they included three days built into the end of the year to accommodate weather closures. But Tuesday night, in following Green's suggestion, they said going to school until June 21 would pose a hardship to teachers, students and their families.
School director Tyler Tomlinson voted again Green’s recommendation, arguing that eliminating two instructional days this early in the year is unnecessary. He suggested the board wait until the winter season plays out before deciding whether to use days at the end of the year.
“I don’t want to lose any days,” said Tomlinson. “I’m extremely reluctant to make a decision in November to give up those days already. We know education is important, the community values it, and time on task matters.”
Board president Paul Faulkner and vice president Geri McMullin expressed similar concerns, saying they want to be sure next year’s calendar includes 184 instructional days. But they voted to support Green’s proposal.
“We worked hard to get to those 184 days,” said Faulkner. “I don’t want us to go backward.”
Green said the administration has already begun working on the 2013-2014 calendar to be presented to the board in January. He said the goal is to keep the 184 days intact but to compress the schedule so the school year ends earlier in June.
Green said one benefit of not making up the instructional days is that it allows two additional days for staff development, which is especially important this year because of new teacher evaluations that will go into effect.
“That’s going to be a huge deal,” said Green of the evaluations. “We need time to work on that.”
Of course, the calendar could be adjusted if classes have to be cancelled again. One day could be made up by holding classes on Presidents Day, currently a holiday, and two more on June 20 and 21.
The state requires 180 instructional days for students. The Central Bucks calendar now includes 182 instructional days.
“We still have two days to forgive if we have a tough winter,” said Green.
But Green said he would be against extending the school year into the week of June 24.
“It’s just not a great time to be in school,” he said.
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