Emergency School Closings | Policy 8214

Days of Session

School districts must be in session for all students, including students with disabilities, for not less than 180 days. Included in the 180 days are days on which attendance is taken; days on which Regents examinations, State Assessments or local examinations are given; and days on which Superintendent’s Conference Days are held.

Legal Holidays

District officials may not schedule days of session on a Saturday or a legal holiday except Election Day, Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday (however, driver education classes may be conducted on a Saturday).

Legal holidays include: New Year’s Day; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Lincoln’s Birthday; Washington’s Birthday; Memorial Day; Flag Day (second Sunday in June); Independence Day; Labor Day; Columbus Day; Election Day; Veterans’ Day; Thanksgiving Day; and Christmas Day.

Length of School Day

The minimum length of the school day for purposes of generating state aid is 5.0 hours for full-day kindergarten through grade 6, and 5.5 hours for grades 7 through 12. These hours are exclusive of the time allowed for lunch. If the School District establishes a school calendar in excess of 180 required days, the excess days need not comply with the mandated daily time requirements.

Extraordinary Conditions

The length of the school day requirement does not apply if schools open late or close early due to extraordinary circumstances beyond their control. Similarly, because of circumstances beyond its control, the School District may lose whole days of instruction due to emergency school closings.

Pursuant to Education Law Section 3604(7), if the Commissioner of Education finds that the schools of the District were not in session for 180 days because of extraordinarily adverse weather conditions, impairment of heating facilities, insufficiency of water supply, shortage of fuel, lack of electricity, natural gas leakage, unacceptable levels of chemical substances, or the destruction of the school building either in whole or in part, the Commissioner is authorized to excuse up to five (5) days under certain circumstances.

For the District to receive such a “waiver” from the Commissioner, the Commissioner must find that those “lost days” of instruction could not have been made up by using, for the secondary grades, all scheduled vacation days which occur prior to the first scheduled Regents examination day in June; and, for the elementary grades, all scheduled vacation days which occur prior to the last scheduled Regents examination day in June. Scheduled vacation days that may be used include days of religious observance associated with Passover, Easter and other religious holidays. Only Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays are excluded from days that may be used for this purpose.

Requests for excusal must be made in writing to the State Education Department at the close of the school year. If scheduled vacation days and days waived by the Commissioner are insufficient and the School District still remains one (1) or more days short of the 180 days, the District may schedule additional sessions after Regents examinations, through June 30, to satisfy the length of session requirement.

In the event that only one (1) building in the District will be short the required days of session because of some extraordinary condition, the day(s) for only that building must be made up by using all scheduled vacation days before an excusal can be given.

The rescheduling/make up of “lost days” of instruction will take into consideration collective bargaining agreements as may be applicable.

A declaration of a State of Emergency by the Governor due to adverse weather conditions does not authorize the school districts affected to operate an annual session of less than 180 days.

Reporting

Pursuant to Commissioner’s Regulations Section 155.17(h), each Superintendent shall notify the Commissioner of Education as soon as possible whenever the emergency plan or building-level school safety plan is activated and results in the closing of a school building in the District; and shall provide such information as the Commissioner may require. School districts within a Supervisory District shall provide such notification through their District Superintendent, who shall be responsible for notifying the Commissioner. Such information need not be provided for routine snow emergency days.

Education Law Sections 3210, 3602(4), 3604(7), and 3604(8) General Construction Law Section 24
General Municipal Law Section 92-c
8 New York Code of Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) Sections 155.7 and 155.17 and Part 175

Adopted 12/18/06

Days of Session

In accordance with Education Law Section 3604(7), school districts must be in session for all students, including students with disabilities, for not less than 180 days. Included in the 180 days are days on which attendance is taken; days on which Regents examinations, State Assessments or local examinations are given; and days on which Superintendent’s Conference Days are held.

District officials may not claim partial or full attendance on days when classes are not in actual session. This situation is most likely to occur on Regents examination days or Superintendent’s Conference Days. Such days do count toward the 180 required days, but, since they are not days of actual session, they do not affect and are not factored into average daily attendance.

Legal Holidays

Pursuant to Education Law Section 3604(8), District officials may not schedule days of session on a Saturday or a legal holiday except Election Day, Washington’s Birthday and Lincoln’s Birthday (however, driver education classes may be conducted on a Saturday).

Legal holidays include: New Year’s Day; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day; Lincoln’s Birthday; Washington’s Birthday; Memorial Day; Flag Day (second Sunday in June); Independence Day; Labor Day; Columbus Day; Election Day; Veterans’ Day; Thanksgiving Day; and Christmas Day.

Length of School Day

In accordance with 8 New York Code of Rules and Regulations (NYCRR) Section 175.5, the minimum length of the school day for purposes of generating State Aid is 2.5 hours for half-day kindergarten, 5.0 hours for full-day kindergarten through grade 6, and 5.5 hours for grades 7 through 12. These hours are exclusive of the time allowed for lunch. If District officials establish a school calendar in excess of 180 required days, the excess days need not comply with the mandated daily time requirements.

Extraordinary Conditions

The length of the school day requirement does not apply if schools open late or close early due to extraordinary circumstances beyond their control. Similarly, because of circumstances beyond its control, the School District may lose whole days of instruction due to emergency school closings.

Pursuant to Education Law Section 3604(7), if the Commissioner of Education finds that the schools of the District were not in session for 180 days because of extraordinarily adverse weather conditions, impairment of heating facilities, insufficiency of water supply, shortage of fuel, lack of electricity, natural gas leakage, unacceptable levels of chemical substances, or the destruction of the school building either in whole or in part, the Commissioner is authorized to excuse up to five (5) days under certain circumstances.

For the District to receive such a “waiver” from the Commissioner, the Commissioner must find that those “lost days” of instruction could not have been made up by using, for the secondary grades, all scheduled vacation days which occur prior to the first scheduled Regents examination day in June; and, for the elementary grades, all scheduled vacation days which occur prior to the last scheduled Regents examination day in June. Scheduled vacation days that may be used include days of religious observance associated with Passover, Easter and other religious holidays. Only Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays are excluded from days that may be used for this purpose.

Requests for excusal must be made in writing to the State Education Department (SED) at the close of the school year. If scheduled vacation days and days waived by the Commissioner are insufficient and the School District still remains one (1) or more days short of the 180 days, the District may schedule additional sessions after Regents examinations, through June 30, to satisfy the length of session requirement.

In the event that only one (1) building in the District will be short the required days of session because of some extraordinary condition, the day(s) for only that building must be made up by using all scheduled vacation days before an excusal can be given.

The rescheduling/make up of “lost days” of instruction will take into consideration collective bargaining agreements as may be applicable.

A declaration of a State of Emergency by the Governor due to adverse weather conditions does not authorize the school districts affected to operate an annual session of less than 180 days.

Since Education Law Section 3604(7) requires a minimum of 180 days of session for State aid purposes, school districts cannot extend the regular school day and count the extended times as additional days of session to make up “lost days.”

Communication Liaisons

Pursuant to Commissioner’s Regulations Section 155.17(g), each District Superintendent, during a local or State emergency, shall act as the chief communication liaison for all educational agencies within the Supervisory District territorial limits.

The Superintendent of Schools in the Cities of Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Yonkers, during a local or State emergency, shall act as the chief communication liaison for all educational agencies located within the city district.

Reporting

Pursuant to Commissioner’s Regulations Section 155.17(h), each Superintendent shall notify the Commissioner of Education as soon as possible whenever the emergency plan or building-level school safety plan is activated and results in the closing of a school building in the District; and shall provide such information as the Commissioner may require.

School districts within a Supervisory District shall provide such notification through their District Superintendent, who shall be responsible for notifying the Commissioner. Such information need not be provided for routine snow emergency days.

Schools as Emergency Shelters

School facilities are generally perceived as safe havens during emergencies and disasters. Commissioner’s Regulations Section 155.17(f) states that Boards of Education and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) shall cooperate with appropriate State, county and city agencies in developing agreements for the use of school-owned facilities and vehicles during a disaster. School districts and BOCES are required to relinquish to the appropriate State or county agencies the control and use of school transportation vehicles and facilities in accordance with county emergency preparedness plans or directives.

Accordingly, SED has long stressed the importance of schools working with their local Red Cross chapter in completing a Statement of Agreement Concerning the Use of Facilities as Mass Shelters by the American Red Cross. The agreement states that after meeting its responsibility to students, schools will permit their facilities to be used by the Red Cross as shelters. In addition, the Red Cross will reimburse the school for food and supplies used during the school’s use as a shelter. Finally, the Red Cross will defend, hold harmless, and indemnify the School District against legal liability arising from the negligence of the Red Cross.

While the completion of a Red Cross sheltering agreement is key, a shelter cannot open unless a Red Cross trained individual is present to serve as the shelter manager. It would be beneficial for School District employees to volunteer to complete the Red Cross shelter manager training and serve as the shelter managers for Red Cross shelters in the School District. This would achieve two (2) main objectives: first, District employees are most familiar with their own school buildings and would be the most effective and efficient shelter managers; second, the School District has a commitment to serve the entire community. School District employees serving as Red Cross volunteer shelter managers will enable the District to be prepared to aid the community in time of need.

Some key shelter manager responsibilities include:

1) Determining the shelter layout and assigning shelter staff.
2) Assessing feeding options.
3) Ensuring that shelter residents are kept current on the disaster and recovery process.
4) Inspecting the shelter for safety and sanitation.
5) Coordinating plans to close the shelter.

Information on Red Cross shelter agreements and manager training may be obtained by contacting John Coffey, Red Cross Liaison to State Emergency Management Office at 518-457-8909 or the local Red Cross chapter.

Additional information concerning schools and Red Cross Sheltering Agreements may be found at the following SED website (http://search.nysed.gov/search?q=Sheltering+Agreements).

Emergency Service Volunteer Leave

In accordance with General Municipal Law Section 92-c, upon presentation of a written request from the American Red Cross and with the approval of the Superintendent, employees certified by the American Red Cross as disaster volunteers shall be granted leave from work with pay for up to twenty (20) days in any calendar year to participate in specialized disaster relief operations. This leave shall be provided without loss of seniority, compensation, sick leave, vacation leave or other overtime compensation to which the volunteer is otherwise entitled.

Adopted 12/18/06