Frankenstorm Blows Away School Calendar


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On Oct. 29, Great Neck was affected by an unprecedented storm—Hurricane Sandy. The storm, known as “Frankenstorm” because it was a created by the convergence of a cold front and a hurricane, hit on Monday afternoon and lasted through the night. School was closed for a total of nine days due to the many problems caused by the hurricane and the Nor’easter that followed.
Many students sustained damage to their homes and lost power for an extended period of time. Full power was not restored to Great Neck until Nov. 13, which was over two weeks after the initial storm. The main problem in Great Neck,  however, was downed trees, which affected homes and major roads. Junior Allison Kornrich said, “I had two trees leaning on my house. It was horrifying. I thought it was the end.” There was also major tree down in the courtyard at South, causing the courtyard to be closed until all debris was removed.
Although school has been running normally since Tuesday, Nov. 13, the hurricane has had longer lasting effects. Many school events that were scheduled for the time that school was closed had to be rescheduled, including the SAT, which was moved form Nov. 2 to Nov. 17, and the Hunt, which has been rescheduled to Dec. 15. PTSA, Board of Education, and other committee meetings were canceled. Senior Halloween was rescheduled for Nov. 21.
Eight of the nine days that were cancelled were supposed to be instructional; only three extra days had been scheduled into the calendar, leaving a deficit of six days. This caused two problems: a lack of state-required days of school and missed instructional time.
The Board of Education decided to cancel four days of February break (Feb. 19 to Feb. 22) because it is the only school vacation that is completely secular. School is also not allowed to open on any federal holidays. To fulfill the state requirements, the Board added two additional teacher conference days on June 24 and 25. The revised calendar also lists Feb. 18, April 1, and April 2 as additional makeup days if school is canceled again due to inclement weather.
Dr. Thomas Dolan and the Board of Education were sympathetic about the inconvenience of canceling vacation; Dr. Dolan even wrote a letter for families to validate refund requests for travel plans that they may have to cancel. Dr. Dolan said, “I remain committed to the 180 day school year. I am an instructional leader, and all of these days are necessary for the instruction of our students.”
Although Sandy had major effects, Dr. Dolan pointed out “the standards have not changed” in reference to both standardized tests, such as Regents, AP’s, and SAT II’s that students still need to complete, and the necessary requirements for students to be prepared for future years of education. Dr. Dolan also made it clear that the district will be maximizing every moment of instruction.
In the future, the district will list which days will be used as makeup days if necessary.
South is still looking into the possibility of students taking AP tests on the makeup dates (May 22 to 24) instead of the normal dates (May 6 to 17) and is considering if it would be to the students’ advantage. Scheduling remains an obstacle because two weeks of testing would have to be telescoped into three days. The decisions will be made on a course-by-course basis depending on the nature of the curriculum and subject manner.
The unexpected break in the calendar has also led to new challenges concerning curriculum. In addition to the four days taken from February break, midterms were also canceled to create more instructional time. The two days normally dedicated to taking math and science midterms (Jan. 22 and 23) will now be regular days of school; however, there will still be no classes on Jan. 25, which is typically used as a rating day. Teachers will still be permitted to give in-class midterms if needed.
Even though six days of instruction will be made up, the unintended disruption to curriculum has affected both teachers and students. Mr. Joseph Ko pointed out, “Even when students returned to school, their momentum had been disrupted.” He pointed out that before the storm students had just began to get accustomed to consistent five day weeks, which had been rare this fall due to many holidays that caused many short weeks.
The decision to close school was based on many factors. During this storm, the district had to consider the condition of buildings, the safety of roads, power outages, and fuel availability. Dr. Dolan said, “Safety was our main concern. I could not open schools if it would mean exposing our students to any unnecessary risk.”