CHATHAM TOWNSHIP, NJ - The freak October snowstorm that left the district no choice but to cancel school for an entire week is now giving the Board of Education another headache. The administration and BOE members are trying to figure out how to make room in the calendar for a minimum of three make up days and are keeping their fingers crossed for a gentle winter.
There are generally four emergency closing days in the school calendar, five have already been used with the winter season just around the corner. Interim Superintendent Dennis Fyffe along with Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michael LaSusa met with the district administration and the Association of Teachers and Secretaries and proposed giving back January 2, Feb. 17 and Feb. 21 as instructional days. This would give the district three snow days if needed.
“We want to get this resolved as we know parents are anxious to make plans. If we need to go beyond those three days we would lose April 9 and then work back from the Spring Break days beginning with April 6,” said Fyffe.” If we don’t use the snow days, then we can give back April 9 and allow for a long Memorial Day weekend.”
BOE members Jill Weber and Kim Cronin suggested using January 16, Martin Luther King Day, as a makeup day as schools are not required to recognize this day. “Parents may have already made plans for the February break. These are unusual circumstances so I hope people would understand why we would not recognize that day as a holiday,” said Cronin.
Several board members and administrators pushed back. “It is an important day in our history and I feel that it should be recognized on our district,” said BOE member Richard Connor. Dr. LaSusa and Fyffe agreed stating it was discussed but the majority felt it would be a sensitive issue.
Board President Tom Belding stated that the board could provide comments on the proposed dates and reach out to the PTO’s district cabinet for parent input ad well. The final decision will come at the board’s next meeting on November 22.
Why the district closed
Belding read a statement that will be up on the district’s website this week explaining why the decision was made to the close the schools for the full week. “It was a difficult and unusual week for our community . . . and the district took the exceptional step of closing for the entire week,” he stated. “The decision to close on Monday and Tuesday was made easily and early. At 4:15 on Tuesday we had a conference call with representatives of the borough and the township and the police and all were in emphatic agreement that the schools should be closed for the entire week.”
Belding said there were several factors that prompted this decision. “There was a great deal of uncertainty about when the schools would get power back, in many area both walking and driving was dangerous due to downed trees and power lines, and we were all acutely aware that many families were in dark, unheated homes trying to decide if they would leave the area to stay with family or friends,” he said.
Belding thanked local officials and the police for their information, suggestions and support throughout the week. “All worked in a spirit of cooperation for the good of our communities,” he said.