High School Graduation Bumped for Make-Up Days
Board of Education votes to add two school days added to end of calendar year.
From the day they step foot into high school as freshmen, students’ minds are geared toward graduation some four years away.
And for the class of 2013 at West Morris Central and Mendham High Schools, the biggest day of their educational careers is now two school days later than originally scheduled.
During a special meeting of the West Morris Regional High School District Board of Education Monday night, the group voted to bump both high school’s graduation ceremonies from Friday, June 21 to Tuesday, June 25.
The idea wasn’t met with the best reception, either.
Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast said since the last board meeting, when the group discussed a variety of options to make up inclement weather days used during the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, he’s met with school administrators from both facilities, who in turn discussed options with their staff.
“After discussing the options, we settled on moving the graduation date,” Pendergrast said. “Moving the graduation date now, as opposed to later in the year, gives us the most flexibility.”
The move of adding two school days to the end of the calendar year now gives Mendham three inclement weather days available, and Central one day to use as the winter months approach.
The difference in days is thanks to Mendham receiving electricity at its building for Nov. 8 and 9, when Central was still in the dark.
At its last meeting, the board already approved the move to eliminate the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. and Presidents Day and hold classes.
Among the options discussed in addition to moving graduation were taking days away from spring break in April or having students attend class on Saturdays.
The weekend idea, according to Pendergrast, was poorly received by Morris County Executive Superintendent Kathleen Serafino. “The county superintendent said it’s not an appropriate way to do it,” Pendergrast said.
Quality Education Days
At its first meeting after the storm, the board was very specific about whatever change was to be made would allow for “quality” education days. The move to extend the school year doesn’t bring that to the table, according to some board members and residents.
“The additional days at the end of the year,” said board member Jamie Button, “don’t seem to be high-quality education days. They seem to merely just meet the state requirement of 180 days. Students in the district need to be ready for standardized testing. Adding school days in June won’t do that.”
Of the three options, extending the school year drew an “ugh” response from board member Marcia Asdal.
“We’re looking to replace quality education days,” Asdal said. “And to do that, this is the worst of the options.”
Each of the options has a negative impact, Pendergrast said, noting Saturday classes may impede on SAT sessions for students. He also said that when the district has had to hold class during spring break, attendance was “poor” at the beginning of the school day and even worse as it progressed.
For one Washington Township resident with students in the district, end of the year doldrums don’t just impact one grade’s worth of pupils.
“In June, kids are done,” Leslie Mule said. “Senioritis can be applied to every grade at that point. Mentally, they’re done.”
While the board, which voted 6-2 in favor of the move–Button and Asdal the nays–extended the school year, Pendergrast was quick to note this may not be the last of the moves.
Aside from a late October snowstorm in 2011, the last calendar year was untouched by inclement weather days. The top schools administrator warned the community can’t assume that will happen again.
“We don’t want to be lulled into a false sense of confidence and think we’ll have the same winter as last year,” Pendergrast said. “The probable scenario is that students will be in class during spring break."