South Hadley schools surpass record number of snow days used in one year

by Town Reminder

South Hadley schools surpass record number of snow days used in one year
School officials to decide when to make up missed days

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer,

SOUTH HADLEY – Students of South Hadley public schools have one snow day left before school officials will be forced to reevaluate when to conduct make-up days – either during the last week in June, on a Saturday or, if the snow days continue to accumulate, during a school vacation.

Tuesday’s snow storm marked the fifth day this year officials closed the schools, and Wednesday’s catapulted that number to six. Previously, the highest number of snow days given in one school year was four, according to Superintendent Gus Sayer, who said in his 22-year career as superintendent of Amherst and South Hadley schools, he had never used more than four.

By law, South Hadley schools must conduct 180 days of school. The high school needs to also conduct 900 hours of school. Fortunately, half days and school days which were given 2-hour delays do count toward the necessary 180 days of school.

Five possible snow days are built into the school calendar each year. With five snow days, the last day of school for South Hadley students was June 22. Now, it is Wednesday, June 23.

Sayer is allowed to hold school until July 1 if necessary.

“Once we get past seven [snow days], we get into the last week of June,” said Sayer.

However, what students have going in their favor is that school began early this year, at the end of August. “We’re probably going to be able to use a couple of more days in June and possibly as many as three of four,” said Sayer.

If that eighth snow day comes, school officials will have to decide whether to hold school that last week in June, carry out school on a Saturday or use February or April vacation days, with April being the most likely choice between the two.

Either way, these snow days are dually disrupting.

“The problem is there are some people who have already made plans for vacation, just as there are probably some families who have made plans for going away the last week of June,” said Sayer. Numerous students also begin summer jobs toward the end of that month.

“We are required by law to run 180 days of school and one way or another we’re going to have to find 180 days,” said Sayer.

Secondly, the education the students are receiving is being negatively impacted. “It’s so ragged,” said Sayer. “They’re in one day and out the next.”

Ninth and tenth grade students were set to take MCAS exams earlier this week, however they had to be pushed back, tightening the time teachers have to administer and send back the test by next Tuesday.

“It’s been pretty hard probably on the teachers and the kids in terms of the learning that’s going on,” said Sayer.

If an eighth snow day – or more – is called, the most likely option seems to be holding school during the last week in June. That week offers four days during which officials could conduct school. But could mother nature possibly bestow upon students that many snow days? Only time, and the weather, will tell.