Schoharie County

Bill would cut school year after disasters

State Education Law requires districts to provide at least 180 days of education or risk losing a po

While their counterparts in other school districts were enjoying days off during winter recess, students and staff in the Middleburgh Central School District were sitting in class earlier this year.

“Everyone had that week off. We did not,” district Superintendent Michele Weaver said Wednesday.

Faced with millions of dollars in damage from flooding, the risk of mold contamination and destroyed equipment, the district’s schools opened more than two weeks later than usual — a situation administrators feared could cost money. That’s because state Education Law requires districts to provide at least 180 days of education or risk losing a portion of their state funding.

State legislators are hoping to ease this restriction with a bill approved by the Legislature and sent to the governor’s office this week.

“Buildings at many school districts across upstate New York were under water to start the school year following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee,” state Sen. James L. Seward, R-Milford, said in a news release.

“For some, repairing, sanitizing and prepping the buildings for student use took an extended period of time. Such extraordinary circumstances should not cost schools and their taxpayers any loss of state aid,” he said.

According to Seward’s office, state law allows the state education commissioner to provide a waiver of the 180-day requirement in the event the district falls behind by five or fewer days. The bill, if signed into law, would extend that relief to 10 days for districts that had their schedules stunted by disaster.

Meeting the 180-day requirement in Middleburgh entailed meetings with unions and staff and led to the loss of several vacation days and time off for staff and students, Weaver said.

“I truly believe special legislation is definitely warranted,” she said.

Typically, students and staff are able to get the day before Thanksgiving off, but in Middleburgh they did not.

“We revised the schedule to accommodate it, to make up the days that we lost as a result of Irene and Lee. We couldn’t jeopardize losing state aid,” Weaver said.

She said in earlier days, she and other officials were told there would not be any special legislation, so they worked hard to make sure they had classes for the required 180 days. Some staff members had to cancel vacations they’d already scheduled.

“They were just phenomenal,” Weaver said.

The bill awaits action by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Categories: Uncategorized

Leave a Reply