High Schools in Session on National Holidays
Regional school board votes to hold class on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day to make up for school missed from Hurricane Sandy.
Students and teachers in the West Morris Regional High School District will be feeling Hurricane Sandy’s impact well into the winter months.
As local residents get back to a new normal in New Jersey following a two week struggle to regain electricity after the devastating storm, the regional board of education unanimously approved a change in the school calendar that now has classes being held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January and Presidents Day in February.
Four inclement weather days were allotted to each school building at the start of the year. Due to Hurricane Sandy’s damage, Mendham High School used eight inclement weather days rather than the full 10, as classes were held on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 8 and 9. West Morris Central used eight as well, since the original school calendar stated Nov. 8 and 9 would be days off for the New Jersey Education Association's convention.
Much discussion was made by the board, and residents, about where to pull additional school days from. Ideas ranged from tacking on time to the end of the school year, to pulling time away from spring break to even holding classes on Saturdays if necessary.
The wild card, however, is the timing of the discussion. Winter months haven’t officially begun, and according to Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast, he’s hearing it’s going to be a harsh season.
“We have important decisions to make regarding our school calendar,” Pendergrast said to the board. “I would love to have a winter like last year’s, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. If we have any more inclement weather days, we’re going to have to start looking at possibly moving graduation or taking days from spring break.”
Pendergrast noted that during his time as a classroom teacher and guidance counselor, he learned the value and necessity in giving students time off during spring break.
In order to move graduation, however, Pendergrast would have to coordinate dates with the other four school districts in the area so schools don’t hold ceremonies on the same day.
“If we don’t move graduation,” Pendergrast said, “we’re looking at Saturdays.”
“If we’re looking for educational impact,” said Mendham High School student representative William Sager, “having class on Saturdays would be more effective than adding days to the end of the year. Taking days away from spring break would be supremely ineffective, too, and probably won’t accomplish any educational goals.”
This year’s spring break includes two major religious holidays as well, with Passover beginning on Tuesday of that week, with Good Friday coming at the end.
So if spring break isn’t truncated and graduation isn’t moved, it seems Saturday classes will become a very likely option.
But if that’s the case, it would require negotiations with the Teacher’s Association, according to the group’s president, Joyce Hartmann.
The board, which doesn’t meet again until December, voted to hold class on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is Jan. 21, 2013 and Presidents Day, which is Feb. 18, 2013.
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article inaccurately stated West Morris Central used 10 inclement weather days. The school has only used eight. Mendham High School, after having class on Nov. 8 and 9, has used six.