Effort made to slice a day from Schaghticoke's calendar

It was considered a long shot at best.

Superintendent of Schools JeanAnn Paddyfote mailed a request to the state's interim education commissioner June 15 seeking a waiver of the final day of school at Schaghicoke Middle School in New Milford.

Many school closings have left the entire district going until June 24, but Schaghticoke was forced to close one additional day due to excessive snow on its roof.

To meet the state's 180-day rule, the middle school students and staff would be required to attend half a day of school on June 27, 11 days beyond the scheduled closing day.

Schaghticoke's eighth-grade promotion ceremony is scheduled Friday, June 24. That also will be a half-day.

"A request for a waiver on June 27 for Schaghticoke Middle School is needed because a significant number of staff are unable to report to school due to previously scheduled commitments and family responsibilities,'' Dr. Paddyfote wrote in her letter to Interim Commissioner George Coleman at the state Department of Education in Hartford.

"In addition," she wrote, "a number of parents have requested an excused absence for June 27 due to prior vacation plans.

"Eleven makeup days is record-setting for this district," Dr. Paddyfote added. "In order for a school to operate effectively and efficiently, it is necessary to have it adequately staffed. This will not be the case on June 27, 2011.''

Dr. Paddyfote admits her request is something of a "long shot,'' but she felt she had to try because snow days are anticipated closings, but it is unusual to be forced to lose a day in June.

She said she has been inundated with calls from parents and staff expected to be absent because of plans that cannot be changed at the late date.

"I felt I at least had to try,'' she said.

Thomas Murphy, a state Department of Education spokesman, said he predicts such a waiver will not be granted because state law is firm districts must have 180 days of school each year.

Emergency waivers are extremely rare. Even when granted, he said, the district is then expected to figure out a way to make up the lost day at some point in a future school year so all students are guaranteed 180 days of school each year, Mr. Murphy said.

"There is not a lot of forgiveness,'' he said.

Even if the final day is just for "cupcakes and soda'' rather than instruction, Mr. Murphy said granting such a request is a "slippery slope.''

"If you grant one, then that can lead to other problems,'' he said.

Mr. Murphy said he expects the district will get a response to the request "pretty quick.''

Board of Education chairwoman Wendy Faulenbach praised Dr. Paddyfote for at least attempting to find a remedy to what is clearly a "challenging'' predicament.

"It's a hardship for the staff and the community,'' Ms. Faulenbach said.

She noted it would likely be costly for the district if a substantial number of substitutes must be hired to cover teacher shortages.

"It's worth the effort to try and alleviate this challenge and inconvenience on everyone,'' said the Board of Education chairwoman.

"It's worth the effort to try and alleviate this challenge and inconvenience on everyone.''

Wendy Faulenbach

New Milford Board of Education chairwoman