Valley Stream schools shut down for more than a week as a result of Hurricane Sandy, and officials are hoping to return a sense of normalcy to the 14 public schools.
The buildings were shut down all of last week, in addition to Monday and Tuesday of this week. Students missed a total of six days, as Tuesday — Election Day — was already scheduled as a Superintendent’s Conference Day for staff only.
New York State requires 180 days of school per year, and Valley Stream schedules 184 in its calendar. Dr. Bill Heidenreich, superintendent of the Central High School District, said it is unknown if those three extra days would have to be made up. He said that the state could pass legislation giving a waiver to school districts affected by Hurricane Sandy. “Our elected officials have been very sensitive to areas where there have been catastrophes,” he said. “This is a first. I’ve never seen schools close six, seven days.”
He said there are some options to make up instructional time, such as running a regular class schedule during midterm week. And winter hasn’t even hit, he noted, which could mean more closings and more time lost.
Heidenreich said, however, that addressing the school calendar is secondary to the safety and well-being of the district’s students and staff. Many teachers, administrators and staff members have been displaced from their homes.
The schools were open on Tuesday morning for staff members, to prepare for the return of students on Wednesday. He said at that point the district would learn what teachers would and wouldn’t be able to return to school. For teachers that will be out long-term while they put their lives back together, Heidenreich said the district will either use substitutes or have other teachers pick up an additional class. These needs will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
“We’ve lost a lot of instructional time,” he said. “We have to move forward. We have an obligation to provide an education to students.”