LIVINGSTON, NJ – Due to inclement weather this winter season, Livingston Public Schools (LPS) has officially surpassed its three allotted snow days held aside each year to accommodate school closings while still meeting the 180 days in session required by the state. After Monday’s public debate on whether or not to adhere to the 2017-18 calendar—set two years in advance—or to implement an alternative to make up the one school day the district is currently deficient, the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE), the board moved to stick to the calendar, as it was originally planned.
Although several options were discussed, it was ultimately determined that the district would open school on Monday, March 26, and begin spring break on the following day, March 27. Should the schools close on Wednesday, school will also be in session on Tuesday with additional, consecutive days being removed from the Spring Break as needed.
During Monday’s meeting, Superintendent of Schools Christina Steffner offered an alternative to add an additional half-day of school to the end of the year for grades K-11, making the last day of school Friday, June 22. Because that Friday is high school graduation for seniors, it was proposed that seniors make up their day on Saturday, April 28 with a combination of informational “Lance talks” geared for the transitioning student on topics around college readiness, followed by lunch and an afternoon of senior games to make the day both educational and fun as well as to ensure higher attendance.
As teachers are not bound by contract to attend (although several volunteered to do so), Steffner stressed that the administration was prepared to oversee the sessions on that day. Another option was to begin the senior make-up day later in the morning to make the extra day more palatable for students. Steffner confirmed with the state that getting a waiver would not be possible.
A last-resort option was to move Project Graduation as well as graduation day—an option that, according to Steffner, would bring an array of logistical difficulties that the schools would prefer to avoid.
Steffner shared the alternative-days concept with both the Parent-Teacher Council and Association leadership and received their support as well as the support of the Livingston Education Foundation to offer this as an option to the LBOE.
“We just felt it was very important that we give the board some options to consider,” said Steffner. “The high school has been thinking outside the box to try to solve a potential problem.”
According to LBOE student representative Evan Tong, Livingston High School Principal Mark Stern “polled the executive board of the student government to ask for their input.”
“The overall consensus was that we’d all be fine with the Saturday option,” said Tong. “We know there are a multitude of different factors going into this.”
Despite the alternative offered, parents voiced concerns, including the need to make last-minute changes to previously scheduled summer-travel plans, the possibility of fifth-grade parents missing the much-anticipated rite-of-passage “Clap Out” and conflicts with out-of-town camp schedules. Several residents also cautioned the LBOE to carefully consider the necessity of both a week-long February and March break following so closely on the heels of the December break—the reduction of which would help provide for more flexibility in accommodating snow days in future years.
“It concerns me to make a change now that we are very late in the March calendar,” said LBOE President Pamela Chirls.
The LBOE ultimately agreed that despite the inconvenience to those traveling for next week’s Spring Break, the originally planned calendar should remain in place.
However, the issue remains that the make-up day, which could eventually become two-or-more make-up days with the threat of Wednesday’s additional snowfall now looming large, will still need to be accommodated.
The only remaining alternative was to make up the already outstanding day by removing it from the first day of the Spring Break, the LBOE said Monday.
“I recognize that to have one day of vacation eliminated is a big hardship for many people,” said LBOE member Ronnie Konner. “I also want to acknowledge the fact that people who have made their plans shouldn’t change their plans. If you have to take a contingency day, that’s what contingency days are for. If students have extraordinary experiences spending time with their family, I believe that those experiences should be recognized because this is unusual.”
Families who already have their Spring Break plans scheduled should contact their children's schools as soon as possible to report any anticipated absences.