Susi Nichol, an art researcher, was looking forward to hiking and horseback riding in Arizona in February with her sons, a first grader and a fourth grader at Public School 41 in Greenwich Village. Still, she had a feeling that New York City might take back those days to make up for the school days that were lost after Hurricane Sandy.
"I knew it was going to happen," she said, adding that she had to figure out what to do with the nonrefundable tickets. "But I wish it didn't have to."
Parents and teachers have been scrambling to cancel vacations, rearrange home swaps and negotiate with airlines since Monday night, when the New York City Department of Education and union leaders announced that they had agreed to cancel three days of February break, Feb. 20, 21 and 22, in an attempt to make up for the days lost after Hurricane Sandy. They also made a half-day in June into a full day.
It is not clear what attendance will be like on those days, or how many teachers will be gone. Officials of the United Federation of Teachers said that the city had agreed to let teachers who purchased plane tickets or booked cruises before Monday to take those vacations and deduct the time from their allotted bank of sick or personal days.
Colleen McGurk, a fourth-grade teacher at Public School 142 on the Lower East Side, had plans to travel to Fort Lauderdale to run in its Feb. 17 marathon, and then spend the week in the sun. "I'm not going to miss the race," she said, noting that she was one of the runners who had been planning to compete in the canceled New York City Marathon. She said she would change her plane tickets and be in the classroom on Feb. 20. "I'm going to run and then I'm going to come back."
Janet Caraisco, the principal at Public School 188 in Bayside, Queens, said she expected to have at least one or two teachers out those days. If there are more, Ms. Caraisco said she would be prepared. "We will treat it like those snow days when teachers can't get in," she said.
The art teacher might be redirected to a regular classroom, she said. Students might get an extra period of recess or gym, depending on the weather. And Ms. Caraisco can dig into her educational video library, allowing students to spend a period, but no more, watching science videos on electricity and friction, or an episode from the Magic School Bus television series.
Across the region, school calendars are being studied and reconfigured daily. The Huntington Union Free School District on Long Island, for example, took back its entire February break, as well as two other previously scheduled days off. Cold Spring Harbor, nearby, canceled its February break and also the last day of its spring recess, Monday, April 1. John Lysko, the superintendent of schools for the Township of Ocean in Monmouth County, N.J., said his board of education was to vote Tuesday night on whether to take back Martin Luther King's Birthday in January, Presidents' Day in February, and April 1.
As a result of all the changes, principals across the region are hoping for a gentle winter, with as little snow as possible, because every snow day will require finding additional makeup days. "The precarious situation we are faced with is the winter," Mr. Lysko said.
While New York State requires school districts to be in session for 180 days, most plan for a longer session to account for potential snow days. The loss of a week or more because of storm damage meant that many districts, including New York City, would fall below that minimum. State law precludes the use of legal holidays like New Year's Day, Martin Luther King's Birthday or Memorial Day to make up the difference, leaving scant wiggle room in a calendar that had few built-in extra days.
Many teachers said they wondered why the state did not issue a waiver to the 180-day requirement, as it did last school year after Hurricane Irene. But Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, said in a letter to teachers that state law required that all vacation days be used up before a waiver could be issued.
It was still unclear whether private schools, which are not bound by the 180-day rule, would also attempt to restore days to the calendar. A spokeswoman for the Archdiocese of New York said that a decision on parochial school calendars would be made after Thanksgiving. The father of a fifth grader at P.S. 41, who asked not to be identified because he did not want to hurt his son's middle school prospects by talking about skipping school, said he had scheduled a house swap for the break and was heading to Sugarbush, in Warren, Vt., to ski, with his family.
"We have people coming to stay at our house," he said. "We have to go."
Some parents said the withdrawal of the vacation days was a relief.
Judy Batashoff, the mother of a third grader at Public School 205 in Bayside, Queens, said, "That's fewer days for me to have to worry about someone watching my kid."
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.