February break on the chopping block
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The minimum number of days a district must have in its calendar is 180, but that can include up to four superintendent conference days. Heidenreich explained that the State Legislature is entertaining waivers from districts that are unable to make up the lost school days to get to 180, but since the Valley Stream districts can take away vacation days, they do not fall into that category. “You’re not going to get this dispensation unless you are able to demonstrate that you did what you needed to do and you took away vacation time,” he said.
Heidenreich added that at this point, it makes the most sense to shorten the February vacation. “For us, the February recess is the logical vacation to visit because the December recess is too close — it’s not fair, it doesn’t give people time to plan — and the March or the spring recess … there’s a lot of days of religious obligation, whereas the February recess is really a secular holiday, so that’s why we’re focused on that recess.”
It is currently scheduled for Feb. 15-20.
Though the past month has been particularly stressful for Heidenreich, he said that if there is a silver lining, it’s the resiliency of the staff and faculty. “Even though schools were not in session, myself, our staff, we were not on vacation,” he said. “We’ve had many staff members, including myself, who were displaced, who had no heat, no electricity, and in some cases didn’t know where we would be sleeping from night to night.”
Now that most members of the Valley Stream school community have returned to a sense of normalcy, Heidenreich is looking to move forward with changes in the school calendar so people can plan accordingly. “I’m confident that we’ll reach an agreement shortly, and as soon as we do, then we’ll be able to notify parents, students, faculty and staff,” he said, adding that he believes a deal will be made by the upcoming holiday recess.
Jeanne Greco Jacobs, the president of the District 13 Board of Education and a member of the high school board as well, said that it is her hope that the community can be made aware of a decision by the end of the month. “It’s our intention to give the kids as much instructional time as possible,” she said.