SPARTA, NJ — School is finally out in Sparta. This is the first week of summer break for students and most teachers. In Sparta, school was in session until the last possible day, Saturday, June 30. Yes Saturday.
District officials said there were 2372 students absent out of 3180 for a 75 percent absentee rate.
The unique school year had eighth grade completion and high school graduation ceremonies before the year was finished. At the high school finals had not yet been completed by the time students marched to Pomp and Circumstance on June 22.
In his address at graduation superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi quipped the good news was that there were "only seven days left of school and there would be no school on Sunday." He explained the district could not hand out diplomas until full year had been completed and certified that the “class of 2018 will meet the criteria for graduation.”
The state requires school districts to be open for students 180 days. According to district policy, generally at the high school students can lose credit in a full year course if they have 16 unexcused absences or a combination of excused and unexcused absences totaling 26 or more.
The district policy for kindergarten through eighth grade quotes administrative code 16A: 16-7.6 that considers a student truant after 10 unexcused absences.
The 2017-2018 school year brought 12 emergency closure days; nine were for winter weather and the others were from the after math of winter and spring storms that brought down trees and power lines resulting in widespread power outages.
The 2017-2018 school calendar had been established with five emergency closing day. That calendar said in the event the days are exceeded, days will be added to the week of June 25, instead of taking days back from spring break.
The extended school year had unusual consequences including having to accommodate seniors that had commitments on college campuses and in the military that interfered with final exams. At the June board of education meeting, board members approved paying 22 high school teachers $45 an hour for three hours to “proctor and grade final exams when the student return from vacation in July."
At the May Sparta Board of Education meeting the 2018-2019 calendar was discussed and some amendments were made, including the impact of exceeding the allotted emergency closure days. The calendar approved at the April meeting contained the same language that extended 2017-2018 calendar to June 30.
After discussion a compromise was struck. If the allotted five emergency closure days are exhausted by February 28, any additional days will be eliminated from spring break.
If the allotted five emergency closure days are exhausted after March 1 they will be added to the end of the school year. This year eight of the emergency closure days came after March 1.