Traditionally school starts after Labor Day weekend, but due to last year’s harsh winter and the late date for the holiday, some districts will start before the long weekend to get in the full 180-day school year required by the state.
“This is an unusual calendar year,” said Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services Superintendent Stephen Todd. “With Labor Day being as late as it is this year, and accounting for unknown factors for the rest of the school year, some districts had to start before the holiday. September 8 is a late time to start.”
Labor Day weekend is Sept. 5-7 this year.
According to Mr. Todd, the harsh winter north country districts experienced last year has caused superintendents to think about adding days to their calendars to prepare for more snow days.
“Last year, winters were tough. Some districts went over the six or seven days they set aside as snow days,” Mr. Todd said. “Some districts are setting aside more days this year for emergencies and to do that they have to start a little early.”
Watertown City School Superintendent Terry Fralick said he received several questions from concerned parents about why school is starting before Labor Day.
Watertown schools will open for K-9 students on Thursday and grades 10-12 students on Sept. 8, after the long weekend. The district usually starts high school freshmen before the rest of the high school student body.
“We traditionally try not to start before Labor Day,” said Mr. Fralick, who would not speculate what attendance will be like on Thursday’s opening day for Watertown schools. “But this year we have to consider several factors.”
The district had to consider possible emergencies — such as snow days — as well as holidays and days for teacher training, he said.
“We have six days set aside for emergencies such as snowfall,” Mr. Fralick said. “We have to have 180 days of school to receive our full allotment of state aid.”
Mr. Fralick added that with the early start of school, he has concerns about professional development.
“We’re still working on Common Core and getting our teachers more comfortable with the new curriculum,” the superintendent said. “The state allows us four days for professional development.”
The first staff development days in Watertown are today and Wednesday. Another staff development day is set for April 18.
Unlike Watertown, Indian River Central School District will start after Labor Day on Sept. 8.
“We have a high population of Fort Drum students and the parents of those students are on leave up through Labor Day. And a lot of local folks will be away for that weekend,” said James Kettrick, superintendent of Indian River schools. “If we were to start before Labor Day it would be a rather low attendance day.”
Mr. Kettrick said there will be two superintendent conference days with teachers on Wednesday and Thursday — when some districts open — which count towards the required 180 days, even though no students will be at school.
He said he also has concerns about the impending winter.
“Last year, we used all of our six days for emergency closures,” Mr. Kettrick said. “I’m thinking we’ll probably have to use some of the six days set aside for this year.”
Mr. Fralick said all districts are entitled to make plans that best fit them.
“We are dealing with the circumstances we were given,” the superintendent said. “This is new ground for us.”