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Legislature May Alleviate Schools’ Requirement of 180 Days Of Classes
Posted By Joseph Spector On November 1, 2012 @ 4:57 pm In Uncategorized | Comments Disabled
The heads of the state Legislature’s education committees said today that they expect to consider legislation that would alleviate schools’ requirement to have classes for 180 days because of Superstorm Sandy.
School districts would face a loss of state aid if they were to have fewer than 180 days of classes. Lawmakers said they would look to modify the law to hold school districts downstate harmless because of the extended school closures caused by the devastation from Sandy.
“I believe that there will be a tremendous spirit of cooperation because of the magnitude and severity of these issues,” said Senate Education Chairman John Flanagan, R-Suffolk County.
Allowing schools to hold fewer than 180 days of classes is not unprecedented. In fact, it was done this year after tropical storms Irene and Lee for parts of upstate hampered at the beginning of last school year.
The law gave the state’s education commissioner the authority to hold districts financially harmless if they lost up to 10 days “due to a duly declared state of emergency following a federally and state recognized natural disaster.” The law previously had been for five days.
The education department believes a new law would need to be passed in regards to Superstorm Sandy.
Assembly Education Chairwoman Cathy Nolan, D-Queens, said she would expect the Legislature to approve the waiver for New York City and its surrounding areas. She said a similar measure was approved after a destructive ice storm in the North Country in 1998.
“We have done it in the past and it’s certainly not something that’s done lightly, but clearly this rises to the level of the ice storm in the North country or Hurricane Irene in upstate,” Nolan said.
Lawmakers are increasingly likely to hold a special session after next week’s election to deal with the state’s response to Sandy. Flanagan said he would expect the issue would be addressed were a special session to be called.
“This is serious stuff, no matter what community you live, and I’ll just respectfully add that I think the governor will be on board with something like this quite freely,” Flanagan said.
Districts typically build in three to five snow days each year, but Sandy alone may have exhausted those days for many districts.
David Albert, a spokesman for the state School Boards Association, said schools would support the change.
“It’s an extraordinary circumstance and we absolutely believe that the education department and/or the Legislature should give schools the ability to collect their state aid even if they don’t meet the 180-day requirement,” he said.
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