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No Joke: School Board Adds April Fools', Others Back Into Calendar

With four of the five snow days already used and a predicted rough winter ahead, the school board adds three 'off' days back onto the calendar.

Southern Lehigh students can expect to be in the classroom three more days this year then initially scheduled. 

The school board unanimously voted to add Jan. 21, Feb. 15 and April 1 back into the school year in order to give the district a little more cushion for a possibly bad winter. 

"The likelihood of using additional snow days this winter is pretty high," said board president Dr. Thomas McLoughlin. 

Students are required to be in school 180 days, with varying amounts of instructional hours depending on grade level (from 990 for upper grades to 450 for kindergarten).

"We have a few options to make sure the school complies with state requirements," said superintendent Leah Christman. "We can adjust the calendar [to add additional days at the end of the year]. We can adjust graduation [to help senior comply with attendance requirements], or we can add days back into the calendar."

Board members suggested additional options. "If push came to shove, [students] can go on Saturdays," said Dr. Elizabeth Stelts. "I've heard of other districts doing that." 

During the lengthy discussion, the board agreed that if at all possible dates around long holidays shouldn't be used, such as dates leading up to or ending on either side of the Winter Break or Spring Break. 

McLoughlin did ask that parents reach out with suggestions for additional makeup days in the event that the district uses the four remaining days. "It would help if folks in the community would give us guidance about which days would be best."

Conversation about adding the Monday after Thanksgiving back into the calendar was nixed to accommodate the traditional beginning of hunting season. 

Should the weather cooperate, the board does have the right to restore any of these days to their original "off" status.

As board member Jeff Dimmig pointed out, "I don't think anyone will be that upset if we add those 'days off' back into the calendar."

A.K. November 13, 2012 at 02:45 PM
While I respect the notion of tradition associated with it, I think the opening day of hunting season should absolutely be on table. In the very least, the logic behind sticking to such a tradition should have been vetted in an open forum. There are plenty of opportunities to hunt beyond the opening day itself--- and while it isn't ideal for many families who view the tradition as important to their values-- it should be outweighed by the need to create a buffer, ensuring that our students, specifically our seniors, acquire the necessary hours of instruction in the classroom. It seems a smidge presumptive & negligent on the school board's part (as they are meant to be representatives of the constituents, not all of whom are hunters). The extreme circumstance of Hurricane Sandy's impact on the educational progression of our students ought to be enough for the board to at the very least have discussed this matter among themselves as a responsible representative assembly.
A.K. November 13, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Point of clarity: I am not saying that the days they ended up choosing are not going to be an adequate/acceptable solution, they very well could be. What I am saying is the Monday after Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and once it is passed up on, it can not be put back on the table. If there happens to be a cause for another cluster of inclement weather days to be taken in the future, we'd have to weigh the cutting of other holidays due to our not taking the first Monday after Thanksgiving--- the problem I have is the fact that the board was rather curt in their dismissal of even discussing the possibility, despite the fact that this is something that will potentially impact more 'broadly celebrated' holidays down the road. If students wind up having to attend school on a Saturday, which will undoubtedly cause massive conflicts with many extra curricular and community commitments/schedules--- just remember we incurred that because of an adherence to tradition without sufficient discussion.
slyfox November 13, 2012 at 03:02 PM
What does the 1st day of hunting have to do with schooling? Peace.
Chandler November 13, 2012 at 03:15 PM
The first day of hunting season? Oh gosh--maybe in years past that was a traditional day off--but I really doubt that the majority of Solehi kids go hunting on the Monday after Thanksgiving. It should be a day of school and if you choose to take off for a day of hunting, it is your responsibility to make it up. And to this statement: "I don't think anyone will be that upset if we add those 'days off' back into the calendar."---does it really matter if someone gets upset about it? You have to have 180 days of school. The parents of Solehi are a whiny bunch--aren't they??
Leslie November 13, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I, too, believe that the first day of deer killing season is ridiculous. I don't believe you'll have a majority of students absent that day that would allow the numbers to drop so that State attendance quotas aren't met. I'm not necessarily opposed to hunting, that isn't the point of this post.
Karen Hennessy November 13, 2012 at 06:42 PM
My sentiments exactly! First day of hunting season should have been the first to go, as opposed to the very next day after a holiday( Monday after Easter) when my kids definitely will not be there so we can still visit family, which to me is equally important to school when they live far:/
Tom McLoughlin November 13, 2012 at 09:15 PM
To clarify, there was widespread agreement that the Monday after Thanksgiving would have been a good day to give back - unfortunately we were informed that many parents and teachers had already made unchangeable travel plans given that this day is now less than two weeks away. This will likely be a discussion point for future scheduling; it seemed in our discussion and from these postings that the preponderance of opinion is that this is not a holiday of importance to most residents (even though it is still, we are sure, treasured by some as a tradition).
A.K. November 13, 2012 at 10:42 PM
Thanks for taking the time to respond and address the concerns raised Dr. McLoughlin. I recognize the logic behind the decision, especially given the short period of time between now and the date in question--- it would be nice to see exactly how parents were polled about their travel plans, and whether families that had made plans on the other dates re-added to the schedule had their voices heard as well. I get that the board has to weigh the immediacy of the date in hand, and the probability of more 'unchangeable' plans being made in the shorter time frame, I just would like to have seen more transparency/clarity of the process leading to the conclusion. It could easily be that I just didn't have my finger on that particular pulse, but it feels as though the average citizen didn't really have any access to the conversation.
Stew November 14, 2012 at 02:07 AM
WOW! The Southern Lehigh School Board of elected officials have demonstrated under the leadership of Mrs. Christman their collective understanding of the community.
Stew November 14, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Thoughts to ponder? Why does the board approve the 2012-2013 Southern Lehigh School District Calendar almost a year ago with five, yes five built in snow days and then change it prior to even using the fifth day? It appears it is a rubber stamp assembly line. Regarding the following comment by board member Dr. Elizabeth Stelts: "If push came to shove, [students] can go on Saturdays"... "I've heard of other districts doing that." With sports of all levels, college placement exams, and numerous other community activities this will never happen. My guess would be that half of the staff won't show, plus you forgot one major component. You would need to do a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) to the teacher's contract, which will cost the taxpayers in the long run. But you probably already knew that and said it just to get the teachers union upset?
Stew November 14, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Dr. McLoughlin's following statement is strange given that Mrs. Christman doesn't really care about the community: "It would help if folks in the community would give us guidance about which days would be best."Really, is this like the recent hurricane and the school opening(s)? Wait, Liberty Bell and Lower Milford didn't have electricity, but the night before all of us were given a phone call stating that "ALL SCHOOLS" needed to have electricity. It is evident that she knew the night before or so many children wouldn't have been able to be transported so easily. More later when denial begins.
Notbornyesterday November 14, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Wow, give it a rest. It's a no brainer that we're going to need more snow days to make up for the ones lost from Sandy. So the board picked the obvious ones that they felt would least impact the community. It's pretty common for people to go away at Thanksgiving and Christmas but not so common for plans to be made around MLK day or Presidents weekend. Easter Monday was sort of a compromise date I think. I'm sure the administration understands if a child misses that day because of already made plans. Years ago the school board would just add days to the end of the school year and then change the graduation date. That REALLY didn't go over well.
Crestor Januvia November 14, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Stew, you are obviously a dumb ass teacher or some dumber ass support person. Shut up and collect your gift from the taxpayers, you idiot. You have proven numerous times to have no idea what goes on in the district, you just THINK you know what is going on. Now go pick up your mop and get moving....
Crestor Januvia November 14, 2012 at 03:11 PM
What does Christmas have to do with schooling? Easter? What does summers off have to do with schooling. DERP.
Ed November 14, 2012 at 04:50 PM
School year ending 2012's last day was June 1st. This was ideal for many reasons, so while you are giving the school board input on which "off" days to use, please mention a June 1st last day for the upcoming 2013/2014 school year, if you happen to agree. An earlier start date for 2013 can provide the cushion necessary to fulfill missed days due to inclement weather issues. An earlier start, along with the use of predesignated "holiday" use can make the school year for students and families much smother.
Ed November 14, 2012 at 05:17 PM
Many families use the Monday after Thanksgiving to extend the holiday never considering hunting season. While many in SLSD hunt, they are going to take this day for themselves anyway. I think the district understands that attendance will be down on the holidays used to make up time. @Stew - I also have an issue with Christman's "Maybe" school will be in session on November 2nd - Standby. Great, we squeezed in a day, but almost half the student body was absent on the 2nd of November and teaching/learning was put off until Monday the 5th. November 2nd amounted to "doin time" to satisfy State mandate. While many homes in the district had utilities restored, many did not; I found it ridiculous to have school on November 2nd and Superintendant Christman's actions "out of touch."
Leslie November 14, 2012 at 05:19 PM
I disagree. Leah is very understanding of the community and I have found her to be more open and honest than other administrators here and in other areas.
Leslie November 14, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Again, I have to disagree. It's not just a matter of Leah's decision to have school or not. Many factors such as the transportation and the availability of drivers, and that their dispatch center has power, being able to GET TO the areas to pick up students, etc. She doesn't just sit there and draw straws for pity's sake. I'd rather have more communication than less.
Ed November 14, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Leslie, yes, Leah Christman has many factors to consider, the factor she considered less was the students and their families. The larger point is teaching and learning was put on hold until Monday Friday, November 2nd was not a productive day, as are most days for students past Memorial Day. Putting out a communication under the circumstances of recovering from a hurricane the magnitude of Sandy, and telling people "Maybe," and "Standby" for more last minute communication is irresponsible. And, yes, Leah Christman has to comply with the state; however, school districts are an expensive proposition for the taxpayers and we should be looking toward efficiency and productivity, not doing what has always been done. Changes are needed.
Leslie November 14, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Again, having been in such a situation on the "other side" of things, I know that it is not so simple. She has always proven to be a very communicative person and I think she's damned either way...whether she said stand by or she didn't. She wanted the student families to know they are working on it...to provide SOME kind of communication. Plus the day after a long stretch is never productive. That, imho, has really no bearing on the decision. What baffles me is the State does not provide any relief days. Unbelievable. THAT should be what the community should be ticked off about.
Ed November 14, 2012 at 06:01 PM
True, she would have been damned either way, and there ought to be relief days - seems like now is a good time to get that ball rolling, let's call Justin Simmons and Charlie Dent. I am thrilled to have a woman in Leah Christman's position. I think she would do well, though, to reveal her spine when it comes to running people around just to satisfy state requirements, especially under circumstances such as Sandy. If she would have stood up to the State and district opposition in the name of wasted time and resources, I'd be more than happy to stand up for her. If she is going to do well in her position of authority, she will need to employ her spine.
Leslie November 14, 2012 at 06:04 PM
She has what it takes. It, as we have discussed earlier, is not so easy as people believe. It SHOULD be, but it's not and that isn't all her fault either. In any event, I am giving her a break.
Ed November 14, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Good, me too! She should know there are people like us who have her back.
Leslie November 14, 2012 at 06:10 PM
:)
Gramma24 November 15, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Of the many school districts I have either attended or had my children attend, only those in this part of Pennsyltucky give off the Monday AFTER Thanksgiving. Thursday and Friday were IT. That should be a no-brainer as going back in rotation, as is 'the first day of hunting season', really? Not everyone hunts, and if it is such a 'family' tradition', have they not heard of taking an 'educational fieldtrip' for such nonsense? And Saturdays should be considered. If they can open (heat and lights) the schools for Saturday detention, why not use it for what it was intended for? Education. First to go should be all the incidental holidays, President's Day (do you REALLY think that having the day off makes the kids think about the former presidents?) and all the Mondays after holiday breaks......maybe even the spring holidays should be up for grabs, Spring break, Memorial Day....what is more important, educating our children or giving them another day to 'hang' at the Promenade?
careless fills November 28, 2012 at 12:14 AM
We don't need a detailed survey. This was an executive decision using common sense, and a no brainer nonetheless. The cancellation of the holiday would be effectively be less than two weeks away (actually only 7 school days) and people might not want to (or be able to) change their travel plans with such short notice. The Thanksgiving monday is connected to the rest of the days off and could very well have been counted on. Also, people would probably not plan to use MLK or Presidents day so far in advance since they produce only three day weekends, and few working people (except governement) actually have those days off.

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