NHPS break canceled due to blizzard

Last weekend’s blizzard has struck one final blow on the city of New Haven: the cancellation of February break in New Haven Public Schools.

School officials decided last Wednesday that due to this year’s proliferation of snow and hurricane days, classes in city schools will meet this week — when February break was originally scheduled — to comply with state law, which stipulates that students must complete 180 days of school by June 30. Although the district had two snow days built into its schedule, it has already used 10 this year due to the blizzard and last fall’s Hurricane Sandy, leading to the decision to cancel break — a choice that has angered some parents and students.

“We don’t want our students out of school for too long,” NHPS Superintendent Reginald Mayo said in a statement last week. “We canceled school for a week out of concern for the safety of our students and a need to keep people off the roads during intense snow-removal operations. Now it is time for them to get back in the classroom and back to the business of learning.”

Despite the district’s reasoning, some parents and students said the unexpected turn of events will cause undue burdens on many in the community. Families that already had plans, plane tickets and appointments will have to choose between previous commitments and sending their children to school.

Ira Rosofsky, the parent of a sophomore at Wilbur Cross High School, said the problem does not only affect “the relatively affluent who are heading off to a Caribbean island,” explaining that families with academic enrichment experiences or medical appointments scheduled will also have to cancel their plans or skip school. Rosofsky planned to visit potential colleges with his son this week, but the new school schedule may force them to cancel part of their plans.

Aneurin Canham-Clyne, a sophomore at Wilbur Cross High School, started an online petition calling on school officials to rescind their decision, with a total of nearly 400 signatures. School officials acknowledged that their decision is inconvenient but contend that, under the circumstances, canceling February break is the most responsible action.

“We know this is frustrating for many, so we’re going to be working with the families on this,” NHPS spokeswoman Abbe Smith said.

Students whose families already made plans will have excused absences, she added, and school officials will coordinate classroom coverage with teachers and administrators who had previous plans. She noted that a similar situation occurred when New Haven Public Schools had to retract some days from February break in 2011 due to snow days, but student attendance during those days was only slightly lower than normal.

Smith explained that officials had hoped school would resume on Thursday — which later proved impossible given road conditions — and that no formal announcements were made about how the snow days were going to be handled before Wednesday. She added that by Wednesday, school officials realized that the safest option was to cancel school for the rest of the week, forcing the school district to cancel February break.

Rosofsky said that even if the school district was obligated to add days to the calendar, there were better options than removing February break. He suggested tacking on days to the end of the school year or canceling April break, giving families more time to prepare for the cancellation. He said he believes the school district wanted to hold classes this week, in part because school officials are concerned about scores on Connecticut state exams, which take place in March.

“I don’t think the decision really has to do with some basic belief that this is good for the education of our children,” Rosofsky said.

All after-school programs in New Haven Public Schools have been canceled for this week. School was not in session for President’s Day.

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