Officials Change School Schedule: Princeton Public Schools in Session Feb. 14 and Feb. 17

school-bus-snowPrinceton Public Schools officials have made a last-minute change to the school schedule for this week and next week because of snow days.

Schools will now be in session this Friday, Feb. 14, and Monday, Feb. 17.  Friday was originally a staff development day. Monday is President’s Day.

Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane made the announcement about the two additional school days in a message to parents tonight.

Cochrane originally announced last week after the ice storm that the district would follow the school calendar approved by the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education for this academic year. As part of the calendar approved by the board, three snow make-up days were added to the end of the year. All three of those days will be used, and the last day of school will now be June 24.  The other two days approved by the board for this calendar year as snow make-up days, March 20 and March 21, were originally taken from spring break last week.

“The Princeton Public Schools will now be in session on Friday, February 14 and Monday, February 17. Families who have a confirmed commitment on one or both of those days are asked to send a note to school so their child’s absence may be excused,” reads the message from Cochrane tonight. “I recognize that this change in our school calendar will create a conflict for some families. I certainly wish the circumstances and the weather were different. I believe, however, that the decision to provide instructional days earlier in the year rather than at the very end is in the overall best interest of students.

“Moreover, I believe that returning March 20 and March 21 to Spring Break as vacation days will avoid a substantial number of absences among both students and staff.” Cochrane wrote. “Finally, this calendar revision allows us to retain two potential days at the end of June should there be a significant snow event later this week or over the course of what is turning out to be a very long winter.”

Earlier today, Cochrane posted another message saying that the leaders of teacher, administrator, and support staff unions were working with him to revise the school calendar to reinstate spring break.

“Right now it is likely that we will use Friday, Feb. 14 as a teaching day with students. We are also looking at the possibility of using Monday, Feb. 17 or Wednesday, June 25 as a second day of teaching. Using two of these three days for instruction will allow us to return March 20 and March 21 to spring break as vacation days,” Cochrane wrote. “There are a number of factors, including contracts and transportation, that must be considered.”

Some parents and teachers were unhappy about make up days being scheduled for spring break.”This change makes sense,” said one parent regarding the announcement tonight.

But others also complained about the short notice for adding two days this Friday and next Monday.

“My kids will be gone Feb. 17, and it is now too late to change those plans. I would rather see the kids make up the days during Spring Break as the new Princeton break dates are too cold and require day care as they are no longer in sync with our Easter break dates,” wrote one parent on social media.

“I so very much appreciate the responsiveness to the community and creative solution seeking. However, making changes so close to days being impacted (Feb. 14 and, especially, Feb. 17 which many working parents have off) is difficult to manage and adapt to as a parent,” wrote another.

Some parents have suggested that the district begin school the Tuesday after Labor Day in future years rather than  stretching the school year out in June, which can create conflicts with summer camps and other summer arrangements.

“Way too late to be changing things. The school calendar was set last year with snow-day make-ups listed on the school calendar,” wrote one parent. “It isn’t a surprise that spring break was going to be used — however I understand the planned vacations during that week. But a three day notice to what is scheduled as a 4-day weekend (which was never on the calendar to be taken back) is not an acceptable solution. There is no solution to 5 make-up days that makes everyone happy – but the Board of Education should stick to the plan and if needing to change then use April’s date or the Friday before Memorial Day.”

The Lawrence Public Schools built three make-up days into the school calendar for May 23, June 6 and June 13. School will now be in session those days. Lawrence is also using Feb. 14, previously slated as a professional development day, as a make up day. District officials announced the change last week. If additional make-up days are needed, Lawrence school officials said they will take them from spring break.