School districts bank snow days by starting before Labor Day

By Danielle Nelson

*This article is posted on The Express Times website.


Starting school after Labor Day gives administrators flexibility to keep from pushing back the last day of school into late June in the event of frequent snowfalls. (Express-Times File Photo | CHRIS POST)


When winter’s wrath blankets the Lehigh Valley and northwest New Jersey with snowfall after snowfall, it makes sense to start school before Labor Day to account for weather-related closings.

Despite last winter being the fourth-snowiest since records have been kept — about 67 inches in the Lehigh Valley — the Bethlehem Area School District did not have to push its graduation back, in part due to starting school in late August, according to Superintendent Joseph Roy.

“It gives us a full week in,” Roy said. “We have five days of school in before Labor Day so when we get into those winter months we are already ahead of the game.”

According to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, 84 percent of Pennsylvania school districts started school before Labor Day in 2011, the most recent data available.

Warren County Technical School seniors had to wait until June 23 before they could cross the stage and receive their diplomas. Their graduation had been scheduled for a week earlier.

Yet, Superintendent Robert Glowacky said, school will start after Labor Day this fall, just as it did last year.

“We are going to try to put in a couple snow days this year,” Glowacky said. “Just anticipating the bad winter we had last year, we want to try and have our graduation in the middle of June as everybody else does. We don’t like to keep changing it because if it’s not the snowstorms, it’s the hurricanes.”

North Warren Regional School District Superintendent Brian Fogelson said the district starts after Labor Day because its teachers’ contract begins Sept. 1.

Fogelson said the district did not have to push back its graduation date after using five scheduled snow days and taking two days from Easter break.

Robert Smith Jr., the Allentown School Board president, said it’s an Allentown tradition for students to go back to school after the Allentown Fair, which happens during the Labor Day weekend.

“A lot of students usually work at the fair,” Smith said.

That’s why state Rep. Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery, sponsored a bill last year that would require school districts across the state to start schools after Labor Day. He wants families to enjoy the “full, traditional summer vacation while not negatively impacting the education of students,” according to his website.

Pennsylvania School Boards Association spokesman Steve Robinson said his group opposes the mandate for starting school after Labor Day. He said that decision should be left in local control.

Another reason Bethlehem Area starts school before Labor Day is to accommodate activities such as fall sports and marching band practices, Roy said.

No matter what you decide, you have to be flexible, Glowacky said.

“You can try to prepare but you can’t control Mother Nature,” he said.

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