Schools adapt to unexpected week off

With restoration of power the main focus of life in Western Massachusetts following the Oct. 29 snow storm, area schools were cancelled for the entire week.
At Westfield Vocational Technical High School yesterday, the halls were filled with students who Principal James Laverty said were excited to be back.
“The kids were really happy to be here today,” he said.
Southwick-Tolland Regional High School Principal Pamela Hunter said her students were also happy to be at school this week.
“Everyone is happy to get back to a routine,” she said.
Hunter said it was business as usual at the school.  However, the storm did cause the administration to extend the quarter a week. There was also a disruption in sports, but the teams pulled it together and both the boys and girl soccer teams finished the season on top.
Hunter said she was grateful there was little damage to the school.
“I am thankful there wasn’t more damage,” said Hunter. “I think people are pulling together.”
Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Scallion agreed.
“There were really some heroes that should be recognized city-wide,” Scallion said. “People came together.”
Scallion said she heard numerous stories about how families were brought together by the storm and the lack of power.
“I’m happy to hear families had time to do things like play games and cards,” she said. “It’s refreshing to hear about their experiences – the kids will never forget those experiences.”
Having an unexpected week off caused some confusion for Voc-Tech students who alternate a “week about” working in their vocational field with a week in academic classrooms.
“Students weren’t sure where to report today,” said Laverty.
He said students who were scheduled for exploratory shops last week will make it up at the end of the semester.
During a coffee hour held at the school by Mayor Daniel Knapik, a member of the audience suggested the schools take days away from February or April vacation to make up the time.
“It’s not up to me, it’s up to the state,” said Knapik.
Laverty said because Westfield Public Schools started the year early, there is leeway.
“Without any bad weather days off, we were set to end the school year June 12,” said Laverty.
Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Scallion said right now, there are no plans to cut vacation time short to make up the time.
“We built five days into the calendar so at this point we end the school year June 20,” said Scallion.
Scallion said if there are several more snow days this winter, she will “cross that bridge if we need to.”
Laverty said the Department of Education decides if school districts can stray from the 180-day school year and right now “it’s too soon” to make those decisions.

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