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NJ School Districts Juggle Calendars to Make Up Snow Days

3-14-14

By Christie Duffy
Correspondent

Fort Lee’s superintendent says they normally builds in three snow days, but they still went over this year.

“This year has probably been the worst year as far as snow days and inclement weather days that I can recall,” said Superintendent Paul J. Saxton.

Some New Jersey schools have lost more than eight school days this year due to snow. State law requires 180 public school days for a district to receive state aid.

Fort Lee’s school board voted this week to make up for snow days on two Saturdays in March in addition to having school on two spring break days. Students we talked to Friday are not thrilled about the Saturday school days.

“It doesn’t really affect me because I’m not going,” said Fort Lee High School student Richard Cruz. When asked about having class on spring break, Cruz said, “That is worse because it really does affect peoples’ family plans.”

“You know look, it has to happen. The weather was bad and school is very important,” said Fort Lee parent George Pakradoonian.

Students won’t have any testing on the Saturday school days, which are half-days.

Schools across the state are making tough decisions.

A recent informal survey conducted by the New Jersey School Boards Association found most responding districts lost between four and six school days this year.

Two-thirds of respondents say they’re taking days from spring break to make up for lost time. Nearly half are adding days to the end of the school year.

About two-thirds of districts build extra days into their calendar to make up for lost days. Those that do, usually add tack on one or two extra days.

Camden’s school district has taken back all of spring break and pushed back the last day of school to make up for cancellations.

Children with religious observances will be excused. By law, school districts cannot schedule school after June 30. And some can’t push back graduation arrangements.

Northern Valley Regional School District requires students to attend 183 days of school, rather than the state-mandated 180. Plus they build in two to three extra days as a buffer for cancellations. Students in the district have proposed logging on for virtual teaching to make up for a snow day.

It’s a capability that could possibly replace snow days in the future.

“We would have the capacity to actually have a full school day, even though we would not physically be present,” said Northern Valley Regional High School District Superintendent Dr. Christopher Nagy.

Nearby Pascack Valley schools have already tested the technology and they’re seeking approval from the state Department of Education for virtual school days to count toward the 180-day requirement.