Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 30 November 2012 00:00
The Mineola High School Marching Band “Disney’s Magic Music Days in Florida” trip from Feb. 15 to 22 was caught in the storm’s fray and is in jeopardy of being canceled. Some parents have already put non-refundable deposits down for the journey south, with the total cost per student reaching $1,300.
District officials decided to shorten the February vacation week of Feb. 18 to 22. According to District Superintendent Michael Nagler, in order for schools to receive state aid, districts must total 180 days of school.
State aid per day is $20,728, district officials said. Mineola is now on track to have 181 school days providing no weather-related issues force schools to close.
“They would not be allowed to go on a scheduled trip in February,” Nagler said. “There’s no good way to look at this. My experience in this community, we have fewer people leaving in the February break than the March break. But either way it’s going to run into problems.”
Nagler noted it’s not unusual for kids to miss school because of a trip and if no more snow days were used, the district would consider allowing the music trip to occur.
“I think we are going to get snow,” said Nagler. “If we’re trying to make three or four days that week and we say to the 100 kids in our high school ‘you can miss those days anyway,’ it kind of defeats the purpose.”
Nagler stood strong on the notion that the needs of the district exceeds the wants of the few.
“Where we are today, my recommendation would be for the band to not go to Florida,” Nagler said. “I remind the board that the band is an extra-curricular activity and we are in the business of educating children and that maintaining 180 instructional days should be our primary goal and everything after that, we would work as we can.”
Mineola parent Phyllis Badinger, who along with Robin Bischoff and Nagler helped schools upstate after Hurrricane Irene in 2011, felt the idea of canceling the band trip was ill advised. At a recent conference of Long Island school leaders, a straw poll indicated that half of the superintendents are examining the shortened February break, Nagler stated.
“I know a lot of people don’t go away for February break, but not this year,” Badinger said. “Because of the Disney trip, people have already made plans, people have already sent in deposits…I have already sent in deposits. I don’t know what the solution could be. Once you take that away, I don’t know if we’d ever put it back.”
The wrath of Sandy put a dent in the calendar. However, because there were two instructional days in August, with the new configuration the district will only lose one day.
“The marching band is still something to be proud of,” Nagler stated. “It’s a very difficult argument to make that 100 students would outweigh the 2,500 other students that we want to build a calendar for. Perhaps we can take those deposits and apply them to a March trip.”
The trip could also be shortened rather than negated, said Trustee Christine Napolitano.
Sandy took five days away from the district calendar, making the school year 177 days and Mineola High School did not open on Nov. 5. The district was open on Election Day and May 24, 2013 is considered a snow day, making the calendar 179 days.
“When we crafted this calendar, it didn’t matter because we had two days in August, we had already met the 180 [days], so those two days worked for us and we didn’t have to worry about state aid,” Nagler said.
School will be open on Feb. 21, 22 and May 24, which maintains the 180-day state aid requirement. Feb. 19 and 20 would be snow makeup days, however, Nagler said if Mother Nature decides to sprinkle fresh powder between February and March, the district may need to claim March 25 as a snow day.
“There’s no easy solution to revise the calendar, especially in light of hurricane issues and possible snow,” Board President William Hornberger said.
Talks have spurred in the State Education Department with Commissioner John King, who may grant a five-day waiver that schools can attain if it exhausts vacation days.
“The issue for us is the storm happened so early in the school year, there’s no way not to touch a vacation day,” said Nagler. “If it happened later or if we got our 180 [days] and we had a massive storm on April 10, we have no days left to take, then we could apply for the waiver.”