The wiggle room has run out of many local school calendars.
Spring break has been cut short in some districts because of a series of cancellations for snow and wind chill this winter. Others will pare down the long Memorial Day weekend.
Still other districts that have managed to avoid cutting short vacation days hit their limits Wednesday, leaving superintendents sketching contingency plans for the rest of the year.
“I’ve never had to make so many decisions on so many days through such a long period of time,” said Paul Hashem, interim superintendent of Frontier schools. “I really didn’t expect to have to do this in March.”
Frontier used its last planned snow day for elementary schools Wednesday. The Sweet Home district also hit its limit.
“That’s it for us,” said Donald Feldmann, spokesman for Sweet Home. “We have no more cushion.”
In Sweet Home, where the district has had five school closures, administrators will move an end-of-year staff development day to June 26 to meet state requirements. The calendar change won’t require students to come back an extra day, but another school closure will likely cut short a four-day Memorial Day weekend, Feldmann said.
In the West Seneca School District, where students have had seven school closures this year, they will be required to attend school April 21, the Monday after Easter. The Orchard Park School District had already put April 21 back on the school calendar before Wednesday’s snow day.
Another snow day will mean more tough calendar decisions.
“A lot of us would be reluctant to tinker with the very end of the year,” said West Seneca Superintendent Mark Crawford.
The state requires 180 student attendance days, and most districts have wiggle room built into calendars in case of snow days. But many districts are hitting their limits this winter.
“Today, we break even,” said Elena Cala, spokeswoman for Buffalo Public Schools.
As of Wednesday, all but one school in Buffalo had closed for six days, the total number the district had built into its calendar. Leonardo DaVinci High School closed one additional day because of a power outage at D’Youville College. DaVinci students will likely be required to attend class on May 23 – the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, Cala said.
If Buffalo schools close again, all students will be required to attend May 23, she said.
Most school administrators try to avoid changing spring break – scheduled for April 14 through April 18 in many districts. That has become harder as winter has persisted.
While most school districts build in four to seven extra days in case of closures, it is relatively rare in recent years to use up all of those days.
Most years, Hashemsaid, the planned snow days are enough, “unless there’s something like the October storm or the Blizzard of ’77.”