In snow day debate, April break stays

After heated debate over how to make up eight excess days of canceled classes, New Haven Public Schools has finalized its revised academic calendar.

Following the unpopular decision to cancel February break following last month’s blizzard, NHPS officials decided last week to extend the school year into June and replace several half days with full days, though the district’s April break will remain untouched. School officials said the plan was made after consulting parents, teachers and school administrators.

“I thank parents, teachers and staff for stepping up to the plate during February break and ensuring our students had strong, academically focused schools days after missing school six days in a row [following the blizzard],” NHPS Superintendent Reginald Mayo said in a statement last week. “Let us continue working together toward a strong finish for this school year.”

In a year of extreme weather — including Hurricane Sandy in October, which saw gusts of wind up to 90 mph, and the February snow storm that dumped nearly three feet of snow on New Haven — the district amassed a total of 10 snow days, but only two were built into the NHPS academic calendar at the beginning of the year. The district released a plan last week to make up the remaining snow days. April 12 and April 19, which were previously half days, will be full days of school under the revised schedule. In addition, the school year will be extended by four days, as June 20, 21, 24 and 25 will now be half days.

According to NHPS spokeswoman Abbe Smith, school administrators reached out to the New Haven Federation of Teachers President David Cicarella, School Administrators Association President Peggy Moore and parents at the city-wide parent leadership meeting, which brings together parent leaders from schools across the district, for their input on a revised calendar. After consulting with the community, Smith said, the district judged that there was overwhelming support for keeping April break.

“It’s been a long school year, and people need the April break kept intact,” Smith said.

Ira Rosofsky — the parent of a sophomore at Wilbur Cross High School, who was angered by the district’s decision to cancel February break and the late manner in which it was communicated to district parents — said he is satisfied with the district’s decision to make up the remaining snow days. Although Rosofsky would have preferred to see school during April break, because his son will be preparing for AP exams in April, he said he has no problem with extending the school year and converting half days in order to solve the snow day issue.

Rosofsky said, however, that in the future, the school district needs to have a better plan to handle snow days. Smith said that there has not yet been a decision about the district’s snow day policy in the future, but that it will be discussed before the next school year.

Under state law, New Haven Public Schools must complete 180 days of school before June 30.

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