Sparta Students May Go to School on Saturday

Credits: Jennifer Dericks

SPARTA, NJ-Weather has wreaked havoc with the school calendar again.  This year it was the seemingly unending snow and ice that closed Sparta public schools, including a day for roof inspections, keeping students and staff home for tens day, so far. 

The four snow days built into the calendar were quickly exhausted.   Another five have been taken back by cancelling spring break.  That leaves an additional day to make up.

Sparta school district is considering using a Saturday as a potential make-up day, according to district officials.  District principals have been asked to review their calendars in a effort to minimize conflict with known school related activities such as ACTs and audition based musical performances. 

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Other days that could be considered are Good Friday or Memorial Day. 

The board of education will be approving the remaining make-up day at the March 31 regular meeting.  If a Saturday is used, schools will follow an early release schedule.  The district must get approval from the Executive County Superintendent, according to the so-called DOE letters written on the subject in 1994 and 1998.

New Jersey law requires 180 days of instruction for all public school.  NJSA 18A:7F-6 states, "...No State aid shall be paid to any district which has not provided public school facilities for at least 180 days..."  The commissioner may grant a waiver "if all efforts to achieve make-up days have been exhausted," according to the DOE-letters.

According to New Jersey School Boards Association, "The waiver has rarely been granted."

A board of education has the managerial prerogative of extending the school year or open on days previously designated as closed for students, according to NJSBA.  Rescheduling the calendar is not negotiable.  Piscataway Ed. Assoc v Bd of Ed 307 NJ Super 263  Though there are exceptions. 

The Administrative Code also establishes the school year to begin on July 1 and end on June 30.  The 180-requirement must be met by June 30. 

Even hurricane Sandy did not alleviate the 180-day requirement.  The current administrative code requires state approval for any alternate plan to recover missed days.

The Attorney General ruled in 1994 that the board may not add four hours to extend a day, nor may it have two four-hour sessions to make up a missed day.  Students must be in school for four hours in order for it to be counted toward the 180 requirement.

There have been districts seeking approvals for alternate plans.  Pascack Valley gained notoriety in seeking approval of their day of online instruction.  The Bergen county regional high school has fewer than 2100 students.   Each student received a computer from the school on which to work from home.   Some classes were held at the regular time and others ran throughout the day.  Music classes were covered by having the students record their practice and sending the recordings to the teachers. 

Pascack Valley is seeking approval retroactively, hoping to get credit for the day.  In Randolph, the district has put together a plan to have an online instructional day approved to supplant one of the remaining scheduled school days.  The plan is for high school seniors only, using a provision in the administrative code that refers to internships or out-of-school programs for seniors.

More details are outlined in an article by Wendi Manderioli of The Alternative Press of Randolph.

On this,  the first full week end of Spring,  weather forecasters are again using the four-letter word, snow,  as another storm is possible for Tuesday night.  

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