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Schools may lengthen breaks with snow day givebacks


School districts that have been frugal in calling days off because of snow will give those days back to students as the temperature rises.

Reallotting emergency closure days varies by district, with some having specific language in the teachers union contract about what days to give back.

“There isn’t a uniform way to do it,” said Jack J. Boak Jr., Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services superintendent. “It depends on the way their collective bargaining units have negotiated their contracts.”

He said most districts extend April break or Memorial Day weekend.

Sackets Harbor Central School has specific language in the teachers union contract, specifying that May 24 and 28 would be given back if three emergency days are left by April’s Board of Education meeting.

“It’s been at least three years that we gave the two days back,” said Superintendent Frederick E. Hall Jr.

The decision usually is made in April because the weather in March can change day to day.

“March is a very precarious month, as the weather is concerned,” he said. “Safety is the number one thing.”

In the Watertown City School District, Superintendent Terry N. Fralick gets to pick the day students and staff members have off as long as he discusses it with the teachers union president first.

“The contract calls that by April 1, I need to make a decision and contact the union president,” he said.

He guessed one of the two days he has to give back will be the Friday before Memorial Day.

However, he could make no guarantees.

“You never know what Mother Nature has in store for us,” he said.

Carthage Superintendent Peter J. Turner agreed, saying the two emergency days the school has left still could be used. “We might still have a real snow day,” he said. “It’s only March.”

The Indian River Central School District will not extend April break, which is the month’s first week. Business Manager James R. Koch said the school waits until the first Board of Education meeting in May to decide when extra days will be allotted.

“We have used one and have five remaining,” Mr. Koch said. “The superintendent has no plans, but he also has a month and a half where something could happen.”

He said administrators must be prepared for everything from oil spills to nearby fires that could lead to canceling or delaying school.

Beaver River Central, Beaver Falls, has one of the most relaxed policies in the north country — it has no policy.

“We don’t have it in our contract that we have to give back the days,” said Superintendent Leueen Smithling. “I don’t have to negotiate that with the union.”

She said the district has used only one day this year. Although she technically does not have to allot any extra days off, she will make a recommendation to the board at April’s meeting.

“Typically, we have done Memorial Day givebacks,” she said. “We are still waiting to see what the weather will do.”

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