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Going, going ...? School 'snow days' melting April vacation

Updated 6:22 pm, Sunday, February 16, 2014

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  • Curtis Sullivan, 8, foreground, contemplates the climb back up the hill after zipping downhill on Friday's fresh snow at Greens Farms Elementary School. Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed

    Curtis Sullivan, 8, foreground, contemplates the climb back up the hill after zipping downhill on Friday's fresh snow at Greens Farms Elementary School.

    Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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By Anne M. Amato

The school district's planned April vacation is melting in the face of this winter's snowstorms.

With the cancellation of classes Friday -- schools also had been closed Thursday -- the first day of the April vacation has now been re-scheduled as a school day. Any more cancellations before that time will eat further into the vacation, which now will start Tuesday, April 15.

The school system's 2013-14 calendar was approved with five snow/emergency days built in. Friday's closing was snow day number six.

But some already have made plans that can't be changed for that April week.

Jamie Santarella, 14, a freshman at Staples High School, and her sister, Jordan, 16, a Staples junior, plan to travel to the Dominican Republic that week with a group called Builders Beyond Borders. The group plans to help repair and build homes for the needy there.

"We are going regardless of what happens to the vacation days," Jamie said Friday. "There's no way we can change our plans," added Jordan.

Both girls felt the decision to close schools Friday was not necessary.

"I would have preferred just a delay," said Jordan. " I can see cancelling during a storm, but not when it's over."

April Lebowitz said she also would have preferred a delayed opening for schools Friday. "I don't understand why it was changed," she said, noting that school officials initially planned a two-hour delay in opening schools before changing to a full-day off. "Even delaying it three hours would have been better than cancelling it," she said.

"There's still a ways to go," Lebowitz said of winter, adding there could be a number of other storms before the seasons change. "There's a whole month and a half to go," she said.

Danielle Andrad, who has a daughter in the third grade, said scheduling make-up classes during the April vacation could pose a problem. "I work and I will have to rearrange my schedule," she said.

The issue of snow days was raised during the Board of Education meeting earlier in the week. After Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon explained why he delayed closing schools during one snowstorm, which drew the ire of some teachers, board Chairwoman Elaine Whitney said making such calls is a "tricky task."

At that time, only four snow days had been used, but six had been called by week's end. If school days have to be scheduled during the vacation, Whitney said the make-up days start on Monday and, if more are needed, go "sequentially from that."

One board member suggested it might be time to start "lobbying Mother Nature" to cut down on the number of snow-cancellation days.