As snow days add up, last day of school is pushed back

Almost all students relish a snow day, but they don’t like having to go to school in late June.

Unfortunately, the two go together — and the snow days are beginning to add up in Shelton, pushing back the last day of school.

As of the end of this week, schools had been canceled on seven days in Shelton due to snow during this school year. This means the final day of school would be Monday, June 22, and not the tentative date of June 11 set when the 2014-15 school year calendar was approved.

“February has been the killer,” said School Supt. Freeman Burr, fondly looking back at December and January, when little snow accumulated in Shelton — at least on weekdays.

“It’s frustrating for everyone due to the lack of continuity,” Burr said. “When you get through with the February break, you’re hoping for some instructional continuity until the April week off.”

State laws are a factor

By state law, school districts must finish the school year on or before June 30.   That shouldn’t be a problem this year, but it was three years ago when a hurricane and freak October snowstorm combined with winter weather to force many school systems to cut into planned school vacation weeks.

That year, some districts even held classes on holidays (state law bars having school on official holidays in December and January, but not during other months).
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The vacation week in mid-April looks secure at this point.

Shelton no longer has a weeklong break in February, opting instead for two days off for the Presidents Day holiday. That creates a lot of leeway.

And it means the weeklong Shelton school break from April 13 to 17 this year certainly is secure, barring nonstop snowstorms in March.

The Shelton school year still starts on the Tuesday after Labor Day, which is later than in most nearby towns. Public and parochial schools in Shelton follow the same school calendar.

Making the call

The decision on whether to cancel snow is made by Burr. He gets up at 4:30 a.m., and on bad weather days touches base with Shelton police and public works officials on road conditions and the status of plowing operations.

He also checks weather reports and consults with nearby school superintendents. “A lot of things are taken into consideration,” Burr said.

Factors that most people might not automatically think of come into play, such as whether school parking lots have been thoroughly cleared of snow.

This is especially true at Shelton High School, where parking is in demand due to cars driven by students as well as faculty and staff.

And it’s not just the parking lots that must be considered, but also the safety of people walking in them as well as on sidewalks. People can fall and get hurt, and snow piles can cause dangerous blind spots.

Schools are hectic places at the start of the school day, with many people arriving at about the same time and moving about.