Kids may have enjoyed frolicking in the snow Monday or playing video games at home during a day off from school, but if this brutal winter continues the consequence could be a shorter spring or summer vacation.
State education law mandates a minimum of 180 days of school. School districts create their calendars with more than the minimum days to account for inclement weather or other emergencies that force them to cancel classes. Once those days have been used up, the other option is to take away days from upcoming school breaks.
The Ballston Spa Central School District just used its fourth snow day, but it doesn’t foresee any need to shorten vacations, according to district spokesman Stuart Williams.
“We build our schedule around 186 days, so at this point we don’t need to make it up,” he said.
Ballston Spa has been averaging two or three snow days a year, so this winter is above normal. “We had four or five kind of calm winters,” he said.
Likewise, the Schenectady City School District had a 186-day school year with three snow days set aside. It just used its fourth snow day but will not have to have an additional day of school, according to spokeswoman Karen Corona.
Scotia-Glenville also canceled its fourth day of school. It had already gone over its allotment of three snow days, so it is canceling a scheduled superintendent’s conference date set for March 25, according to spokesman Robert Hanlon. The material that was going to be covered at that session will be done with teachers in a more informal way.
If bad weather forces the district to close school again, it would cause the district to take away a day of spring vacation in April, Hanlon said.
“We’re book-ended at the end by the Regents [exams] like everybody else is, so there’s nothing we can add to the end,” he said.
Scotia-Glenville starts its school year late — the Thursday after Labor Day, after two staff conference days. Last year, Scotia-Glenville only used two snow days. The storms always seem to hit during the school week, Hanlon said.
District officials also check various websites, and superintendents often consult with their colleagues when making the decision to cancel school.
“The worst thing to happen for a school is one school is closed and the school next door is open,” Hanlon said.
Sometimes school districts delay the start of classes by one or two hours instead of canceling school. That way, they still get credit for the day. Some districts, including Scotia-Glenville, initially had called for a two-hour delay on Monday but ended up closing school altogether.
Hanlon said the district’s transportation director will drive around the district during a storm to assess the roads. Scotia-Glenville covers both an urban area in the village of Scotia and a suburban and rural area in West Glenville, so the conditions are often very different.
“If it means taking a risk to try to get kids to school, it’s not worth the risk,” he said.