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Midwinter break shortened due to Sandy
by Micah Landau | December 6, 2012 New York Teacher issue
State law and regulations mandate that New York City public school teachers make up three of the instructional days lost due to Hurricane Sandy. Schools will be open the last three days — Wednesday, Feb. 20, through Friday, Feb. 22 — of the city school system’s usual weeklong midwinter break.
State law requires a minimum of 180 days of instruction during the school year. Without making up the three days, New York City schools would fall below that minimum number of instructional days.
At the UFT’s insistence, members who had purchased vacations for the midwinter break before Nov. 20 will be allowed to go on their vacations and instead deduct the time from their Cumulative Absence Reserve banks. Members without any days in their leave banks will be allowed to either borrow days or take the days as days without pay.
More than 32 school districts on Long Island have already given up all or part of their February break to comply with the law.
The midwinter break is being shortened because it is the only break without religious observance days.
The New York City school system typically has well over 180 instructional days in its calendar, which gives the district a considerable cushion, but this year it did not because so many holidays fell on school days.
Other possible options to make up the three days would not have met state law requirements.
While the State Education Department or its commissioner can grant a waiver reducing the number of required school days in the event of a natural disaster, such a waiver can only be granted after all vacation days have been used up.
State law allows local school districts to include up to four non-instructional days toward the 180-day minimum so two professional development days — Election Day and Brooklyn-Queens Day — could not be converted to instruction because they already count toward the state minimum. Unless the state issues a waiver, state law forbids using federal holidays as school days or extending the length of the school day to make up for lost time. Days could not be added to the end of the school year in June because state law does not allow school districts to make up days to meet the 180-day minimum by adding instructional days after the completion of the high school Regents.
Non-school-based members such as teachers assigned who made it to work from Monday to Thursday during the storm week will not have to make up those days that they reported.