Schools Will Change Spring Break Week This Week

If you’ve got a child in schools, you’ll be able to make your vacation plans for April after this week. Or you’ll be forced to.

Many Oswego County school districts this week will approve a change of the week of vacation forced on them by the state Education Department’s decision to schedule a test in the middle of the traditional week off.

Oswego County’s schools had scheduled the week of April 16 as the week of spring break.  Most of the state’s schools were not planning to be closed that week, but many schools in Central and Northern New York were.

Fulton Superintendent of Schools Bill Lynch said that his district, like many others, sets the annual calendar at least a year ahead of time so people have time to make plans and the district can properly plan for teacher training, construction and other issues.

But in August, the state Education Department sent schools a memo saying that some student assessments would take place two weeks earlier, during the week of April 16, in order to get the results back in time to be used for the new teacher and administrator evaluations.

And that threw schools, staff and parents into chaos.  Just as schools make their closing plans ahead of time, many people make their vacation plans early and spend money on deposits or tickets.

“While they’re frustrated,” Lynch said of Fulton’s teaching staff, “they’ve been very understanding that this is an issue we didn’t create.”

Tuesday night, he will ask the Board of Education to move the vacation week two weeks earlier, to the week of April 2-6.  Oswego County’s school superintendents met two weeks ago to decide on the new date.

The 6th was already scheduled as an off-day for Good Friday, so Lynch will ask the board to consider using the fifth day to close school on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

He said Fulton’s calendar was not exactly the same as other schools’ calendars, so those schools are likely to use the fifth day on Monday, April 9.

Lynch said the school leaders decided to move the vacation week two weeks instead of one in order to give students a week of preparation before they take the tests.

Oswego will also consider the calendar change plan on Tuesday, while Hannibal’s board takes up the issue Wednesday.

School officials agree that making the change now won’t help some staff members who have already booked unchangeable vacation plans.

In a letter to staff, Hannibal’s interim Superintendent, Pete Backus, wrote, “I have no easy answers for such conflicts, but am willing to discuss them accordingly….Hopefully the eight month notice may help with the change, but we all know it isn’t time enough in certain situations.”

Lynch said Fulton will create a process for hearing from its staff about conflicts and will work with its unions.

“I don’t want to be heavy-handed with them like the state’s been heavy-handed with us,” he said.