Winter's toll on Fairfield schools: year longer, vacation shorter
Published 2:02 pm, Monday, February 7, 2011
It's made a mess of morning and afternoon commutes. It's caused roofs to cave in across the state. And it has forced the state's towns and cities to dig deep to cover the unexpectedly heavy expenses of cleanup operations.
This winter's snowfall has also drawn the ire of Fairfield's school children -- although not necessarily on the unscheduled snow days they've had off from classes. But those school cancellations have not only caused officials to extend the academic year, but also to shorten the April vacation.
Superintendent of Schools David Title, who was schools chief in Bloomfield for eight-and-a-half years prior to coming to Fairfield last year, told the Fairfield Citizen on Monday, "I've never seen a winter like this. By all accounts this is an incredibly unusual year."
"But Mother Nature does what she wants to do," he added. "We can't control her, but it's been incredibly challenging for districts around the state."
The first four snow cancellation days lengthened the school year by four days and the last two cut as many days out of April vacation (April 18 and 19). School officials could have just further lengthened the school year, instead of chopping two days off April vacation, but Title said the district has typically looked to avoid sending students to school in the last week of June, partly because of increasingly warm weather and also because many families plan trips for that week.
However, if winter continues to buffet the region and doesn't ease up, then students may be behind their desks, rather than in swimwear, the final week of June.
"It may come to that, if we use up April vacation," Title said.
The school year can go as late as June 30. As it stands now, the newly revised academic calendar for Fairfield public schools will end June 23.
Local schools have cancelled classes six times so far this academic year, which is a lot more than usual, according to Title, but low compared to some districts that are in the "double digits already."
Meanwhile, despite state officials concerns about the structural integrity of buildings bearing up under the load of snow and ice on their roofs, Fairfield school buildings are holding up well, the superintendent said.
"The roofs are fine. We've had a good group of contractors on it," said Title. "We have a preventive maintenance program for the roofs. There is no issue with structural integrity."
Title said many school administrators and teachers he has talked to would, for a change, like to have a consecutive five day week uninterrupted by cancellations, delays. or early dismissals.
"There's a concern about the continuity of instruction," he said. "It's all disruptive, but safety comes first."
The superintendent added, "It would be nice to get two five-day weeks ... We make the best decision we can based on the information we have, and we are at the mercy of the meteorologists, and sometimes they are wrong, hard to believe."
A decision to cancel a school day or delay the start of classes is made in the morning by 5:30 a.m. A decision on an early dismissal is made by 10:15 a.m. of the respective day, according to Title.