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Weather’s impact on school calendars varies

January 03. 2014 11:20PM

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Most area school students came back from Christmas vacation Thursday only to leave school early and enjoy Friday off thanks to the snow. But, of course, there’s a price: More school in June, or less spring break in April.

Or, if snow days keep piling up, both.

All but two of Luzerne County’s 11 school districts had students return from winter break on Thursday, but the storm that threatened to make roads slick later that day prompted many early dismissals in the name of caution, and the thick blanket of snow that fell overnight resulted in widespread school closings Friday.

For most, if not all districts, it was the third snow day this school year. How it impacts the school calendars varies.

Varying impact

For Crestwood, closed schools on Friday had no impact on the calendar: The district had a longer holiday vacation than most, and students weren’t going to return to class until Monday, anyway. Superintendent Dave McLaughlin-Smith noted the extended vacation was intended to save money by remaining closed in the dead of winter a few extra days.

That means the district only has two snow days so far, which will be made up by pushing the last day from June 11 to June 13. If more snow days need to be made up, students would first lose a planned day off the Friday before Memorial Day, then see the three-day spring break centered on Easter weekend shrink as needed.

Wyoming Area students face a different situation thanks to a teacher strike that ran from June 3 through Oct. 3. By state law, the strike had to end in time to complete 180 days of school by June 15.

After the strike, the calendar was revised to do just that, wiping out all vacation days except Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and Memorial Day, and moving the last day of school from June 10 to June 13.

That leaves no real wiggle room for more snow days, and the calendar calls for tacking make-up days onto the end of the year. Along with potentially forcing students to attend school into the second half of June, that would also shorten any second strike the teachers may stage this year.

State law allows two strikes per school year, and the second one must end in time to complete 180 days of school by June 30, effectively limiting a second strike in this case to 10 days. For every day of school added after June 15 (a Sunday) to make up for snow days, the likely length of a second strike shortens by a day.

All other districts have snow day plans similar to Crestwood: Add days on at the end of the year and whittle away extra vacation days, particularly spring breaks that, in most districts, run April 17 through April 21.

District options

Some districts chose to use vacation days first while others begin by tacking days on in June. That choice can hinge on when the date of the last day of school is.

At Dallas School District, for example, the last day of school was originally set earlier than most, on June 2, a Monday. That allows the district to recoup up to nine snow days and still finish by June 15 by simply pushing the end of school down the calendar. Superintendent Frank Galicki said Friday was the third snow day this year, and that means the last day of school is now June 6.

Northwest Area also has a relatively early final day, June 4, in its calendar, but also has a longer spring vacation — five days instead of three. The snow-day plan calls for whittling away vacation days first, starting with President’s day Feb. 17, then shortening the spring break. If the district needs more than five snow days, it starts adding school days in June.

Some districts have little choice but to cut into vacations if they want to end school by June 15. Hanover Area, for example, has June 12 planned as the last day, leaving only one weekday before June 15 that could be used to make up for a snow day.

No plan is set in stone, and school boards can opt to revise the calendar as they see fit.

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