Editorial: No more days off from school
The floods that devastated parts of the Schoharie Valley late last summer were extraordinary — the type that (thankfully) don’t occur more than once a century. So it hardly seems necessary for the state to pass a law giving schools an extra five days of relief from the 180-day requirement if they’re temporarily shuttered due to a natural disaster.
At the discretion of the state education commissioner, schools that are closed by weather events like floods, ice or snowstorms are already entitled to a five-day waiver from the rule under which the state can withhold part of their operating aid if they don’t conduct classes at least 180 days in a school year.
A bill passed by both chambers and awaiting action by Gov. Andrew Cuomo would qualify schools for double that grace period. For however fair it may seem to students and teachers who’d rather be on vacation when their counterparts in other communities are, and would be but for dumb luck, the governor should resist signing it.
The experience of the Middleburgh Central School District, related in Thursday’s Gazette story, proves an extended waiver isn’t necessary. When schools that were under water days before the start of the school year had to open several days late, educators and staff who couldn’t go to work when they normally would, agreed to sacrifice scheduled vacation days and other time off later in the year to make sure the district fulfilled its requirement. (Ultimately, the district didn’t even ask for a five-day waiver.)
They sacrificed because everyone in the region was doing so, because they knew their students needed 180 days worth of instruction, not 170 or 175. And then there was the threatened loss of state aid, which undoubtedly would have resulted in tax hikes and job losses.
Honest teachers will acknowledge that even with the 180-day requirement, a considerable amount of instructional time is frittered away over the course of a year; classes get shortened by weather delays, fire drills, even pep rallies. So the rule shouldn’t be relaxed, even come high water. It’s not as if weather events like last year’s are even close to being common.