Winter, spring storms wreak havoc on school calendars

Photo by David VanDeventer
Several winter storms, that have carried over to spring, in 2018 have forced school districts to cut short or cancel spring breaks or add days to the calendar in June.

UNION COUNTY, NJ — Municipalities have struggled through multiple snowstorms this winter and spring, causing school district calendars to buckle under all the unforeseen snow days.

Some school districts had to add days to the June calendar or cut into spring break to meet the state-mandated minimum of 180 instructional days. Such measures haven’t been seen in some districts since Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012.

“This has been quite the crazy weather year,” Nancy Lubarsky, Mountainside’s chief school administrator, said in an April 5 email.
Mountainside schools used seven snow days this year, but had only allotted for four, Lubarsky said. The district originally decided to shorten spring break during the last month of March by two days this year, but then another storm hit April 2, when students were slated to return.

“We decided to use the spring break days, rather than keep adding to the end of the year,” she said. “That being said, because we had our seventh snow day this past Monday, after spring break, Mountainside School District did make the decision to add one more day onto the calendar in June.”

The Mountainside district includes only kindergarten through eighth grade. High school students from Mountainside attend Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, and Lubarsky works closely with the superintendent there to align the district’s calendars. Berkeley Heights may decide to add a different day in the calendar to prevent extending the school year in June, she said.

Municipalities on the west side of the county not only had more snow, but also dealt with power outages, Springfield Superintendent Michael A. Davino said. The district had five snow days, but had only allotted for four on the district calendar.

“Springfield suffered tremendously with power outages,” Davino said in a phone interview. “We lost two days because there was no power, not because of snow.”

Springfield’s spring recess was set to take place from March 30 to April 6, but school officials decided to make up a day by having students come in April 2, according to the district’s website.

Davino said the district decided to subtract from the spring recess rather than add an extra day in June because students may lose focus with summer on their minds.

“If you think about adding a day at the end of the year, the question (becomes): What kind of quality instruction will you be having on the last day that becomes an additional last day?”Davino said.

The Elizabeth School District does not have any allotted snow days, but instead makes up for its closures at the end of the school year.
“It’s district policy that snow days are added on to the end of the year,” district spokesperson Pat Politano said in an April 4 email. “The exception is if there are more than five. If circumstances result in more than five snow days, then the spring break is shortened by the number of additional days.”

The school year in Elizabeth had been set to end June 22, but has been changed to conclude June 27, to make up the three snow days the district had, Politano said.

Powerful storms and winds swept through Union County Jan. 4, and four times throughout the month of March.