Will NJ schools need to use a snow day this wacky winter?
Strange but true: Here we are in the middle of January, and New Jersey hasn't had a single significant snowfall so far this winter. That means Garden State schools haven't had to declare any snow days at all.
According to Frank Belluscio, deputy executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association, the state does have certain requirements in terms of a finite number of instructional days.
"But the question of working snow days into the calendar is a local decision, so (some) districts don't build any into their calendars," he said. "Others might include two or three."
What if those two or three snow days don't wind up being used?
"For the most part, the school year is shortened and the students will start their summer break a couple of days earlier," Belluscio said. "Generally, the practice is that those days will be taken off at the end of the school year. There might be other calendar adjustments that are possible -- there’s no prescribed way of doing it -- but school districts are very reluctant to have any unplanned days, so they'll usually wait till the end of the school year to make sure those days aren't needed."
Belluscio also said the number of teacher work days and instructional days are terms and conditions of employment, and therefore are subject to negotiations with the teachers' union. That is another factor that affects the school schedule.
So, has it ever happened in New Jersey that there was so little snow that not a single snow day was needed?
"We've had some very mild winters where the thermometer has gone up (to) 70 degrees in the middle of January, and almost no snow for the entire winter," Belluscio said. "So although it's very unusual, yes, there have been years in which many or most school districts have not had to use any snow days."
As for this year, Belluscio is not rushing to judgment.
"It has been a very mild winter, but the winter isn't over yet, so let's see what else comes forward," he said.