After more than a week of school was cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy, South Brunswick School District officials said Monday night they will examine all available options to make up the lost time.
With winter coming and the possibility of more days postponed for snow, Superintendent Gary McCartney said during Monday night's Board of Education meeting that spring break and winter break could be under consideration for makeup days.
"I think we'll have to take a long, hard look at spring break," Dr. McCartney said. "For folks who haven't made plans, that's a logical place to get back some days."
The district needs to have 180 instructional days completed by June 30, unless the state Department of Education reduces the requirement in light of Hurricane Sandy. The district had three days built into the calendar in case of weather-related closures.
There has now been six days lost to the storm, or seven in the case of Brooks Crossing Elementary School, Brunswick Acres Elementary School and Cambridge Elementary School, which were the only three schools unable to open Tuesday as power outages persist. School will now be in session this Thursday and Friday. Those days were originally planned as days off for the annual NJEA Teacher Convention, which was later cancelled in light of the storm.
Dr. McCartney emphasized the district is sensitive to students and staff members who already have vacation plans and said they would work with parents and staff to accommodate them during increasingly difficult circumstances.
Students who miss school on makeup days in instances such as previously planned vacations will be allowed to make up the lost work and the days would not be counted as unexcused absences, McCartney said. He added that the district would also work with staff members who had prior plans and do their best to reach a reasonable solution.
"I'll be as flexible as I can be," he said. "I don't have carte blanche in what I can do, but I understand that many people have undergone hardships and I don't want to add to that."
Even if the state were to reduce the required 180 school days, Dr. McCartney said students in Advanced Placement courses at South Brunswick High School for example, simply can't miss the instructional time to prepare for the difficult AP exams.
The only option not on the table for makeup days are religious holidays, as well as other required days for federal holidays and professional development.
During Hurricane Sandy, South Brunswick schools were largely spared of structural damage, aside from the roof of a portable trailer and a destroyed dugout at the middle school baseball field.
Dr. McCartney expressed hope that all district schools would be up and running by Wednesday. Once the recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy have settled down, he said the district will examine all options for makeup days and come back with their thoughts in December, which could include shortening winter break and/or spring break. But, he added, those options are the stark reality of the extremely trying circumstances created by the mass destruction of Hurricane Sandy.
"I do know that we will exercise all the fairness we can for people who have plans that can't be changed," Dr. McCartney said. "We will be respectful of that."
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