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Parents, Teachers on Notice: School Vacations May Be Lost

The Board of Education eliminates days off on Nov. 23, 2011, and Jan. 17, 2012, as well as telling teachers, parents and students to "be prepared to go to school during February and April vacation" if hit by a bad winter.

Southington students will no longer have a day off on either Nov. 23, 2011, or Jan. 17, 2012, and both February and April vacation could be jeopardy if weather-related days off continue to mount.

With six days off already as a result of weather – one following and five as a result of that left residents across the state without power for more than a week – the Thursday took action to change the 2011-12 calendar in preparation for a potentially bad winter.

The board voted unanimously to eliminate two days off that were previously scheduled, one before Thanksgiving break and a professional development day on Jan. 17, a Tuesday. The day before Thanksgiving will be a four-hour school day to allow families to prepare for the holiday.

Letters to teachers asking them to “be on notice” that the district reserves the right to call all employees back into session during either February or April vacation.

“I will send a letter to staff putting them on notice that if there are continued snow days, February and April vacation may be partially or entirely eliminated,” Erardi said. “We will use that time at our discretion because the future is unknown and employees who do not already have non-refundable vacations will be called in to work if additional changes to the schedule are needed.”

Erardi said teacher with planned, paid vacations may take the time off but would do so with “a loss of pay per day.”

“By putting the February and April vacations into the record, we are telling them we have the right to have schools in session, but we do not need to have school days all week unless they are needed,” board member Colleen Clark said.

The initial motion was to include just February vacation, but several Board members including Clark, Patricia Johnson and Terry Lombardi were concerned that if the winter was bad and there were a number of additional school closings, February vacation may not be enough to cover the lost time.

Lombardi said early notice is essential in not only notifying teachers, but in also letting parents know so they can plan accordingly so that students do not miss significant time.

The state Board of Education requires all schools to complete classes by the end of June and hold at least 180 school days per year, unless an exception is granted. Exceptions will not be granted unless school boards take all appropriate actions to try and make the days up.

Southington schools have been put in a tough position because early weather has already forced schools to cancel six days of classes. The closings had forced the schools to already push graduation day from June 13 to June 19. It would have been June 21 if not for the two days added back into the schedule.

During the previous school year, weather cancellations led the Class of 2011 to graduate on June 23 as a result of a hard winter that led to six school closings in a three-week period.

“This could be worse,” said board member David Derynoski. “Since we’ve only lost six days rather than 12 as some other towns, we are in a better position than towns like Avon or even Farmington. This is a measure to help us plan ahead for the unknown.”

With February vacation falling in the middle of winter and the Monday of February vacation not eligible as a school day due to the Presidents Day holiday, board members said being prepared to use April seemed like a necessity.

But the board also made the decision to potentially recall students and staff during school vacations for another reason – concerns over summer heat.

Johnson said with graduation on June 23 last year, there were times where students on the second floor of some town schools were in such extreme heat that it made learning impossible. She said she doesn’t want to see that happen again this year by having school in session late into June.

“It’s in best interest to make the decision now because the future is unknown,” Johnson said.

In Other Notes...
All elected Board of Education members were sworn in Thursday as oart of town charter...the board elected reigning Chairman Brian Goralski to continue serving as the board's chair...Terri Carmody was elected as Vice Chairman and Jill Notar Francesco was elected as Secretary.

Jimmy Andersen November 11, 2011 at 11:04 AM
Losing some paid time off for the storm? Oooh, there's gonna be moaning. Heck, most workers in society would love to have any time off ... unless they're the 9%+ out of work.

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