Among the many temporary casualties of Hurricane Sandy was Long Island’s educational system, with most schools shutting down for a week or longer.
The hardest-hit districts — Long Beach, Oceanside, Island Park and East Rockaway — couldn’t re-open until after Veterans Day, costing their students at least 10 days of school. Most other South Shore districts lost at least six days of classes. Every district used up its allotment of snow days for the year, and then some, and winter is still a month off.
The state needs to give relief to school districts not only for days that can’t be made up, but for the costs of rebuilding damaged facilities.
New York state requires a district to have 180 days of school in order for it to receive its full share of state aid. For some districts, that requirement simply may not be attainable this year. We don’t know how many more days could be lost to snowstorms, and we don’t want superintendents to be forced to keep schools open despite unsafe travel conditions simply to avoid losing more state aid.
Obviously, the more days students spend in school, the better, especially in this era of high-stakes testing. We don’t want them to lose out on their education. We urge school leaders to do everything they can to revise the school calendar to fit in those 180 days.
We realize this might not be a popular suggestion, but the February and March breaks can be shortened to regain as many of those lost days as possible. For those districts that simply cannot make up the time, however, the state should offer waivers.
The New York State School Boards Association is recommending exempting districts from the 180-day requirement. We support selective exemptions, granted only to districts that make an honest effort to make up the time lost to the storm. Despite the trials and tribulations many districts are facing, education should still be paramount.
The NYSSBA has also made several other recommendations that we support, to help schools get damaged facilities back in shape:
• Giving school districts the authority to spend money beyond the limits approved by voters for the 2012-13 school year.