Weiss explained that there is an expectation from the New York State Education Department that districts use scheduled vacation time first. Even if the governor declares a state of emergency due to adverse weather conditions, the agency said, school districts are still not exempt from the 180-day minimum. In extreme situations, the Commissioner of Education can choose to excuse five days from the schedule, but only after a district has exhausted all possible scheduled vacation days. Make-up days cannot be scheduled on Saturdays or mandatory holidays.
At the board meeting, one student said that the schools would be empty come Feb. 19. He felt families and faculty who already have trips planned for that week might not be inclined to cancel them, a sentiment echoed across the state. Last week, Sen. Charles Schumer urged the travel industry, specifically airline and cruise companies, to create a refund policy for families who will have to cancel trips due to changing school schedules.
Looking forward, school officials said that the storm might affect the way the school calendar is laid out in coming years. Weiss says that if extreme weather events become more common, it may be something the district may have to plan for.
“Mother nature already hit us once this year,” said Weiss. “We’re just hoping she’s done with us.”