Preston schools consider calendar changes to ease impact of snow days

Preston — Three weeks into spring, school officials finally felt confident enough last week to set the last day of school for June 22, while teachers will be expected to return for three days of professional development and end the school year on June 27.

Snow days, along with power outages and treacherous roadways during fierce windstorms, forced cancellation of nine school days this year, extending the school year to June 22 and shortening summer vacation. Students also had three delayed openings and one early dismissal this winter. Preston’s school calendar calls for 184 days of school, four more than the state minimum mandate, but students this year will end with 181 days. Preston school staff will have 187 days.

The school system is considering a different approach to the uncertainties of fall and winter weather next year, Superintendent Roy Seitsinger said. A proposed calendar for 2018-19 would build in four potential days off for students that can be withdrawn as weather cancellations occur.

The calendar is posted on the school website at www.prestonschools.org and will be considered at the May 14 Board of Education meeting at 7 p.m. at Preston Plains Middle School. There will be public comment at the start of the meeting.

“The idea is to try to anticipate losing some additional days due to weather and build some flexible days in the calendar,” school board Chairman Sean Nugent said.

The proposed 2018-19 calendar puts the last day of school at Friday, June 14, and includes new vacation days on May 23 and 24, the Thursday and Friday before the already long Memorial Day weekend. Those days would become full school days to make up for weather days off, Seitsinger said.

A third scheduled student day off would be Tuesday, March 26, planned as a full teacher professional development day. That day would be converted into a half day of school for students and half day for teacher professional development if needed as a weather makeup day.

The final built-in possible makeup day would be Tuesday, Feb. 19, the day after the long Presidents’ Day weekend. School systems often eliminate that day if January and February weather cancellations start to mount up.

“It’s all contingent on giving as much notification as possible to families so they would be able to plan,” Seitsinger said.

Seitsinger said which built-in days would be taken first depends on how much advanced notice school officials can give to parents and staff. If snow days come early enough, the February date might be used, but if canceled days are in February, later dates might be used first, he said.

"We wanted to recognize the disruption to winter schedules that had already occurred, respect family plans and make sure we supported quality instructional days that were not forced and were well attended,” Seitsinger said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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