Friday, August 29, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

School officials still affected by winter snow days

As high school graduations pass in a blur of excitement this month, the snowstorms that canceled classes for as many as 10 days this winter may be forgotten by students.

For some school administrators, however, the blizzard of maneuvers they executed to squeeze in the required time for students to graduate is frozen in their memory. They might remember it as the winter that continued into June.

At Radnor High School, scrambling officials at one point had 20 variations of how to account for the state-mandated 180 days of classes.

"That decision-making process," said Dana Spino, manager of media services for the Upper Darby School District, "is very difficult."

Officially, the winter of 2013-14 was the snowiest in 131 years of record-keeping.

In response, school officials were forced to use a variety of methods to get the grads into their caps and gowns on time.

In Bucks County, Pennsbury High School had not included the seven snow days it used in its original calendar. So the administrators extended classes until June 20, 10 days beyond the previously scheduled close.

The New Hope-Solebury School District used all four of its built-in snow days and pushed graduation back two days.

"We were lucky," said Raymond J. Boccuti, superintendent for New Hope-Solebury. "We try to avoid the last week in June, and we used every option to do so."

In Montgomery County, Upper Dublin High School also added days to the end of the school year. But students won't be attending.

Thanks to an exemption from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, only the teachers will be required to stay in session until mid-June, so graduation was not pushed back.

Robert Schultz, the principal at Upper Dublin, conceded that some in the community were fearful that it sent the wrong message to students, that missed class time was not important. But Schultz said the school board's decision was viewed as the least disruptive and most productive option.

"The benefit of taking classes in June?" Schultz said. "You really have to question that."

Upper Darby High School built in several days at the start of the year to guard against snow days. And, after the district lost nearly a week's worth of days due to weather-related closings, the state allowed several teacher in-service days at the end to count as school days. So Upper Darby students will be in school for just one additional day.

Radnor lost 10 school days due to the weather, said Michael Petitti, district communications coordinator. Officials ended up shortening spring vacation, tacking two school days onto the end of the year, and converting Presidents Day and one teacher in-service day into school days. So graduation was unaffected.

"No one," said Upper Darby's Spino, "wants to be in school late into June."


Inquirer staff writer Erin McCarthy contributed to this article.

Jenny Kerrigan Special To The Inquirer
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