Snow Days Wreak Havoc On Westchester School Vacations

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Several Westchester County school districts are already out of snow days because of cancellations for Hurricane Sandy and Winter Storm Nemo. Photo Credit: Al Branch (File)

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Hurricane Sandy and Winter Storm Nemo left a trail of school cancellations and early dismissals in their footsteps.

But that trail is nearing a deadend in Westchester County. 

Because adding days onto the end of the school year is not an option in New York, districts are quickly – if they haven’t already – running out of days to cancel.

“Regents grading day is June 21,” said Byram Hills Superintendent Bill Donohue. “That’s the last day for every school in New York State, no matter what.”

The Byram Hills Central School District was actually running on empty before winter even arrived.

“We used all of our days, plus one, on Sandy,” said Donohue. “The crazy thing is, it could be worse. A lot of these days have resulted in only early dismissals or have fallen mostly on weekends.”

Like many districts, Byram Hills will cut into spring recess in the event of more cancellations. The school districts of Somers, Pocantico Hills, Byram Hills and Yorktown have already begun that process, switching March 25 from a vacation day to an instructional day.

Other districts, such as North Salem, Chappaqua, Irvington, Tarrytown, Valhalla, Bedford, Croton and Peekskill, still have March 25 to 29 marked as vacation days, but will switch them to instruction days if there are further cancellations.

Pleasantville is somehow still sitting pretty, with three snow days left, while Katonah-Lewisboro will probably avoid tacking on more instruction days, no matter the cost.

Katonah-Lewisboro Superintendent Paul Kreutzer said the district's Board of Education will likely decide not to make up the most recent cancellation day because it has “precious few” days to chose from.

Although this would cost about $25,000 in state aid, the district would lose only about half that amount since it would not have to pay the fuel, electricity and other costs of opening the schools for a makeup day, Kreutzer said.

Also playing into Katonah-Lewisboro’s decision is the wish not to hurt families who have already made spring vacation plans.

Michelle Varela is one parent thrown into a predicament by the Yorktown district's decision to shift March 25 from a vacation to instruction day.

“Because my son is adamant about maintaining his perfect attendance, I can’t crush the kid’s dreams!” she said. “Plus, who knows if we will have any more days. We were going to go to Florida, but it looks like it will be a local vacation for us now.”

Somers residents Linda Simpson says school districts should have a higher snow day tolerance.

“We have to change our weekend away and hope the hotel still has room,” she said. “And there might be more snow days before the March break comes. I think the district has to be more discriminating when calling snow days.”

Some families, however, will not let added instruction days rain on their planned vacations.

“I am of the mind that the show – and the vacation – goes on!” said Yorktown resident Jean Scanlon.

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Comments (3)

Trishna:

It's Regents Rating Day, June 21, not regions rating day. And you didn't cover how some districts are bringing students in to school this week, days that were originally vacation days.

caveng97:

In reality Sandy is the main culprit, not snow, and wreak havoc seems a bit over stated, don't you think?

My kids are in New Orleans all this week helping rebuild the 9th ward (planned and booked before Sandy). Usually this is an off week for the kids, but Ossining blew it this year, not related to snow days. I would never let the school district schedule interfere with my children's education—and their service minded efforts.