The Port Washington Board of Education voted Tuesday night to cancel part of February break to make up the classroom time lost to Hurricane Sandy.
As a result, Port Washington Public Schools will be open Tuesday, Feb. 19, Wednesday, Feb. 20 and Thursday, Feb. 21. The move enables the district to meet New York State’s 180-day minimum requirement, and have a day to spare should there be the need for an additional school closing due to bad winter weather. It also comes at a time when districts across Long Island cut back on vacation days in order to make up missed instructional time.
In explaining her recommendation prior to the board’s vote, Interim Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Mooney said “instruction is the driver. These are instruction days, and we expect them to be meaningful.”
There was no indication that New York’s State Education Department or legislature would waive that 180-day requirement, she added. If it does grant a waiver, “I would be happy to restore the days,” she said.
But, she noted, “The biggest issue is to make up instruction time sooner rather than later.”
Still, both Mooney and school board members said they understood that canceling part of the break may cause financial loss and loss of family time for those in the district who had planned time away and cannot get their trips refunded. Those students who miss class would not be penalized, Mooney said, adding that makeup assignments could be worked out between students and teachers.
The district is restricted as to which days it could chose as makeup days, given that certain holidays – among them Veterans Day, Christmas Day and New Years Day – are “off limits,” Mooney said. In addition, the district must meet certain contractual obligations. Presidents Week offers the district the flexibility it needed, and falls well in advance of AP exams so that students could receive critical instruction, she said.
Still, during community comments, resident Andrea Major asked how many teachers might be absent, and therefore leaving the students with substitutes who might show videos in class on those days.
Mooney said she had asked the staff to state by Nov. 30 whether they have nonrefundable tickets. Parents can check with building principals after Nov. 30, she said.
Other considerations included switching to a four-day weekend, rather than two three-day weekends during February.
Ultimately, though, the board approved opening school Feb. 19-21. The vote was 5-0, with William Hohauser and Vernon McDermott not in attendance.
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