New York City's Education Department and union leaders have agreed on the cancellation of three vacation days from the weeklong February break to make up for days lost to damage and delays from Hurricane Sandy.
Besides the cancellation of the three vacation days, Feb. 20, 21 and 22, the city and unions have also agreed to convert a half-day in June into a full day.
"Teachers, principals and the school community made an extraordinary effort to get our schools back online after the storm, and by working together, we were able to open most schools with minimal disruption," the department said Monday in what it characterized as a joint statement with the principals' and teachers' unions. "It is just as important that we recover the time lost, and this agreement will provide students with additional class instruction."
The storm threw the city's public school calendar into disarray. New York State requires districts to be in session for 180 days. Most districts plan for more than that, in an attempt to account for potential snow days. But before the worst of winter has even started, all of New York City's 1.1 million students have already lost five days, and thus the city would fall below the 180-day minimum by a few days. Others have been absent for two weeks or more because of severe damage to school buildings and problems getting transportation to their temporary school locations.
Merryl H. Tisch, the chancellor of the State Board of Regents, strongly advocated more days in the classroom. She said she was sympathetic to the facts that many teachers had been displaced and that everyone was fatigued. "They have been to hell and back, but these kids need instruction," she said.
Some parents expressed frustration on Monday, saying that how the city would make up for lost days had been a topic of conversation at children's birthday parties, in school lobbies and during recent PTA meetings across the city.
"We've thought of every scenario imaginable," said Juan Brea, a PTA president at Public School 11 in Chelsea. He was critical of the city, noting that teachers, administrators and parents had vacation plans based on the previous school schedule. For teachers, he said, losing that February break could feel like a double blow.
"Many were affected by Sandy," he said. "It's not like those days with no gas, no power, no Internet were vacation days for them."
Some teachers worried that attendance would be very low on the days when vacation had been canceled, especially if families already had plans to leave town. But Michael Mulgrew, the president of the teachers' union, said Monday night: "We have to be in compliance with the law, and that is what we are doing. It is what it is."
He added that he hoped the city would not have any snow days.
And some parents saw the logic in reinstating the days in February, as opposed to, say, the end of the year.
"I don't see a lot of intense studying at the end of the year," said Sarah Cassell, the mother of a sixth grader at Public School/Intermediate School 276 in Battery Park City. "There is a lot of seeing movies."
Kyle Spencer and David W. Chen contributed reporting.education
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.