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Some Danbury area districts may need waiver of required school days

May 21, 2018

DANBURY — School cancellations from last week’s storm have left some administrators scrambling to figure out the last day of classes.

Some districts are already preparing to ask the state Board of Education for a waiver of the required 180 school days considering they won’t be able to get that many days in before the end of June. According to state law, students must attend school at least 180 days and no classes can be held in July.

Bill Glass, the assistant superintendent of curriculum for Danbury, said they’ve already decided to hold classes on Friday and cancel a planned professional development day for teachers, but that still won’t be enough. The district, he said, will be one day short and will ask for a waiver.

“This is remarkably unique in that we had so many snow days this year and then we had to cancel several days due to the thunderstorm,” Glass said. “In all my years in education I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

Waivers, however, are rarely granted by state. The last time the state school board granted a waiver, officials said, was to the Newtown school district after the Sandy Hook shooting.

A spokesman for the state Department of Education said districts must do “everything they can” to meet statutory requirements, including potentially holding classes on Memorial Day.

“Even if they don’t reach 180 days school districts have to make their best attempt to do so,” said Peter Yazbak, a spokesman for the department.

He added that the state’s education board will consider any requests for a waiver during its meeting on June 6.

New Fairfield Superintendent Alicia Roy told parents over the weekend that she requested from the state approval for the district to not have to make up days lost to the storm, adding that the request was denied.

“I was told that if we run out of calendar days to go to school in June, I can then make another request, and the state will consider it,” she said in a letter sent out to parents Sunday. “State statute allows for us to hold graduation on June 23, as we have planned. The graduation date will not change.”

Brookfield Superintendent John Barile also indicated in a letter to parents that the district will likely request a waiver. Like New Fairfield, Brookfield is still planning to hold its graduation ceremony on June 23.

As long as the weather cooperates, some districts, like Bethel, should not have a problem ending the school year before the end of June.

Bethel Superintendent Christine Carver said the district’s last day is scheduled for June 26. Despite not being concerned about a waiver, Carver said she does have concerns about hot buildings.

“The real problem is going to be the heat,” she said, adding that most of the school buildings aren’t air conditioned.

“We’re in discussions about possibly having early dismissals during the last week of school for just that reason.”

dperrefort@newstimes.com