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Schools Re-Think Calendar, After Burning Up Snow Days

Dunkirk, NY (WBEN) - With several severe cold weather days this year closing schools, some districts are eyeing the thermometer and the calendar, trying to squeeze in snow days, Regents exams and regular school sessions.

State education law mandates that a district be in session for 180 days, and most districts schedule something close to 183, to allow for a few snow days. A bitter cold wind chill warning for Western New York is expected to prompt more closings tomorrow, at a time when some districts can ill afford the time off.

"We've used five counting today," says Orchard Park Supt. Matthew McGarrity.  "We are over by two from what we have allotted. then we start to look at .. the days before memorial day.. and that last week of school, we start to look at whether those half days are now full days, that kind of thing,"

Mid-terms and regents exams are scheduled this week for area high schools and that makes for difficult decisions for many districts. 

Dunkirk schools is moving a staff development day scheduled for later in the year to tomorrow, in order to allow students to take the Regents now.  Other districts are also wrestling with the issue. 

"Right now the indication is if they don't take the exams this week when they are given, then they will have to take them in June," says Akron Schools Superintendent Kevin Shanley.

Does the amount of snow days a district have left factor in to the decision to close school? Shanley says no. "That doesn't factor in to the decision, the safety of students is our top priority, so it really doesn't matter how many (snow days) we've taken, we'll make the judgment based on the safety."

However, Dunkirk Superintendent Gary Cerne says making the decision on snow days this time of year is a challenge. "If we were later in February, and we didn't have regents exams, and we had some more days remaining it certainly is a much easier decision. But with probably a good six more weeks of winter left it's kind of tough when we're low on days."

Both Dunkirk and Akron plan to take days away from Spring Break if they use more than their allotted amount of snow days.

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