Princeton School Board Issues School Calendar FAQ and Answers

phsThe Princeton Public Schools Board of Education issued the following Q&A regarding the school calendar this afternoon.

By the Princeton Board of Education

In light of the weather-related interruptions to our school year, the board has received many questions from parents and guardians regarding changes to the school calendar. Here are our best answers at this time. Please Note: Some of these answers are subject to change as even more winter weather encroaches on the school year.

Q. How was the original calendar decided upon?

A. Typically the board approves the school calendar one to two years in advance. The board approved the 2013-2014 school year calendar in the spring of 2012. Included in the original calendar were five proposed days to be added to the year if school days were lost to weather emergencies. These five planned make-up days involved extending the school year by three days at the end of June, then reducing the number of Spring Break days. Subtracting days from Spring Break to make up for emergency days is a common practice in many districts.

Q. Why did the administration decide this week to repurpose Feb. 14 and Feb. 17 as school days, and reinstate March 20 and 21 as vacation days during Spring Break?

A. Superintendent Steve Cochrane, in consultation with district staff, determined that making up lost snow days earlier in the school year would be in the best educational interests of the students. Thanks to the hard work of our administrative team and the collegiality of the leaders of our associations, we were able to change Feb. 14 and Feb. 17 into days for instruction. Turning former closed dates into school days requires not only the cooperation of our professional staff, but the resolution of a variety of other logistical challenges, including transportation and food service. The decision was made as soon as was possible.

Q. Will the YM/YWCA provide after school programs on Feb. 14 and Feb. 17?

A. Yes. We thank the Y’s for their efforts.

Q. If we have an additional snow day, what other days could become school days?

A. The administration is considering two dates in June as additional instructional day if we have more emergency closings.

Q. If we have more than two additional snow days, would you consider Memorial Day as a school day?
A. Yes, pending agreements with our associations and the resolution of other logistical issues.

Q. Why not simply continue to add days to the end of the school year?

A. There are many reasons, including the fact that some of our schools lack air conditioning. We also know that lengthening the school year limits summer opportunities for students who have already signed up for camps and pre-college learning experiences. It also limits vacation options for families.

Q. Is there a day after which classes cannot be held?

A. Yes. It is Monday, June 30.

Q. Can the state waive the 180-day requirement for school districts?

A. The short answer is yes, but this has never happened in the experience of anyone on our administrative team. The board believes that if the Department of Education did not shorten the school year after Superstorm Sandy, we cannot expect a waiver to the 180-day requirement based on a similar amount of days missed due to winter weather.

Q. I made travel plans based on the calendar that was in effect at the beginning of the school year. These travel plans cannot be changed. If my student does not attend school on a day when school is in session due to calendar changes, will these count as excused absences?

A. If you provide you school principal with documentation that travel and other activities were planned prior to changes to the school calendar, the day will be marked as an excused absence.

Q. Is it true that two-thirds (or one-half) of students enrolled in a school must be present for a day to count as an official school day?

A. No.

Q. What happens if I send my child to school on a day that turns out not to be an official day due to the percentage of students absent?

A. Based on our understanding of state attendance regulations, which calculate averages over time, a day such as the one you envision (with reduced numbers of students in attendance) would be considered an official school day.

Q. What happens if my child does not attend school on days that were holidays in the former calendar, then he or she has an extended absence due to illness later in the year?

A. If your student is at Princeton High School, please note that students and parents may appeal absences that exceed the number outlined in the Student Handbook. A special committee hears appeals and considers a variety of factors in determining if astudent has met the attendance requirement. For parents of elementary and middle school students, the key factor to consider regarding absences is whether a student has caught up on all the work they will miss while being absent.

Q. Will kindergarten registration be rescheduled or more days added?

A. Yes. Please check princetonk12.org or call your neighborhood elementary school for more information.

Q. Are college visits deemed “excused” absences for high schoolers?

A. Yes. Princeton High School students may be excused for up to three days per year to visit colleges or to audition for college programs. Please refer to the PHS Handbook for details.

Q. What are the new dates of elementary school Moving On ceremonies, the JW Eighth Grade Promotion Ceremony and PHS Graduation? Will these change if we have more snow days?

A. The dates of Moving On ceremonies in the elementary schools will change due to changes to the school calendar. School principals will decide on these dates. The JW Promotion Ceremony will take place as scheduled on Thursday, June 12 in Richardson Auditorium of Alexander Hall at Princeton University. PHS Graduation will be on the last day of school.

Q. Will a reworked calendar affect the dates of testing (NJASK, HSPA, AP)?

A. No. All standardized tests will go on as scheduled.

Q. Why not just have the teachers do all of their professional development days at the end of the school year?

A. The board believes that professional learning is crucial to providing exceptional instruction. Professional development days are held throughout the year in order for teachers to apply what they have learned, so it will have a meaningful impact on student learning. The benefits of professional development would be lessened, or possibly lost, if all in-service days were confined to a period at the end of the academic year.

— Compiled by the External Affairs Committee of the Princeton Board of Education, February 11, 2014