Kinnelon students will be asked to attend school for half a day on Martin Luther King Day this year to compensate for nearly a week's worth of snow days used following Superstorm Sandy.
The school district traditionally does not have students attend school on the nationally-observed holiday, however, teachers come in for an in-service conference day.
The Kinnelon Board of Education discussed adding the day back to the calendar for this year only at Thursday's board meeting. Interim Superintendent Diane DiGiuseppe said the schools used five snow days out of a four-day allowance, but got two days back for bringing teachers and students to school on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9. Students were not initially scheduled to attend school on those days because of the New Jersey Education Association conference, scheduled to be held in Atlantic City, but the conference was cancelled because of the Sandy destruction.
By attending school, even for a half day, on Martin Luther King Day (which is observed on Jan. 21), the school district would regain a snow day. For the half of the school day students are not in session, teachers would have professional development training.
Board members were concerned about having only a single snow day left after the storm with the winter not yet beginning.
"We've already just had a close call this week in terms of snow," DiGiuseppe said. "It's predicted to be a rough winter."
The board also discussed what would happen if additional snow days, past the allowance, were needed.
"If we need more than one snow day then we’ll have to start taking days away from the spring break," Board Vice President Keith Dama said. "We have never been in a position where we only had one snow day in the bank before Jan. 1."
Dama said the school district is seeing the result of "extraordinary circumstances" this year with the storm. Board President Margaret Zybrick echoed the uniqueness of the situation and said the past few years have brought challenges to the school calendars.
"Our 100-year storm came twice in two years," she said.
Other board members agreed that the district should bring students in for Martin Luther King Day.
"I think we look foolish if we don’t," Katie Stylianou said.
Denise Hatch also agreed.
"I think having the extra day gives us the breathing room," she said.
One resident, Cathy Presti, questioned why students have the holiday off to begin with. Zybrick said students used to attend school on Martin Luther King Day but board members were approached by several members of the community who indicated they felt the students should not have to attend school on the holiday.