Take away the February break? Eliminate spring break? Add days on to the end of the school year? All options are up for discussion as the Wall School District administration looks to adjust its calendar to make up days lost to Hurricane Sandy while meeting the state-mandated 180-day school year.
Superintendent Daniel Simon, Director of Technology Jeff Janover, Mayor Jeff Foster and Police Chief Robert Brice led an open forum Tuesday night at the Intermediate School in which the challenge of making up lost days was discussed as was the township's emergency communication procedures.
"We have a very difficult task at hand," Simon said, while acknowledging that any decision he reaches on school days will impact some families who may have already made personal plans for previously scheduled days off.
"My decision about the calendar is going to be in the best interests of Wall children," he said.
The district must make up only five school days because of snow days already built in to the district's 2012-13 calendar. In addition, Simon intends to reschedule canceled elementary parent-teacher conferences, negotiate time for state-mandated testing, allow for the possibility of additional snow days this winter, all while fulfilling the district's state requirements.
"(The state) has no intention at this point ... of reducing the 180-day requirement."
The district's current calendar plans for a holiday break from Dec. 24 through Jan. 1; a winter break from Feb. 11 through Feb. 18; and spring break from March 29 through April 5. June 20 is the last day of school.
"Winter break is pretty much untouchable at this point," Simon said, explaining that it's just weeks away and attendance would likely be paltry if the district added days back around the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
The district does have a staff in-service day planned for Jan. 21. "That seems a fairly obvious day to get back for the students," Simon said.
Parents expressed varied ideas on making up the remaining four days, assuming the in-service day becomes an instructional day for kids. Some favored eliminating a February break they say poses problems for them anyway, others preferred adding days at the end of the year, some questioned whether school days could be lengthened to make up the time and still others said Saturday half-days should be considered.
However, the prospect of minimizing the impact and taking days from both the winter and spring breaks seemed to appeal to many parents, who repeatedly lauded Simon's work during the storm.
Janover took notes during the brainstorming session, and Simon promised to discuss the proposals with his administrators. The superintendent made clear that he wasn't putting ideas up for popular vote but wanted to get the community's feedback before he comes to any conclusions. He expects to present his finding to the Board of Education at its next meeting, scheduled for 8 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Intermediate School.
A show of hands revealed that most parents stayed abreast of township and school updates during the storm in a variety of ways: robo-calls, Twitter, local media.
However, Brice, Simon and Janover said the emergency proved the importance of updated parental contact information and urged those in attendance to help them clean up their phone and email lists.
Janover said parents who'd like to add phone numbers to the district's contact list or change their primary number to be used in an emergency should simply call the front office at their child's school and inform the secretary.
"It is very important you ensure all your numbers are up to date," he said.
Municipally, the police chief urged all to sign up with the township's "Global Connect" system, which is used to disseminate information in an emergency. Visit www.wallpolice.org and find the "Global Connect" icon on the right side of the page. Add all of your phone numbers and email addresses, which will allow the township to get information out even if regular phone use is affected.
Those without access to a computer can call Patrolman Steve Nash at 732-449-4500 ext. 1157.