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Salmon River Central School spends last available ‘snow day’

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MALONE — School cancellations are often met with exclamations of glee. Choruses of “No school!” ring through a household. It’s easy to imagine a child dancing or shouting at the prospect of a day spent in pajamas and out of classrooms.

But if a need to close Salmon River Central School strikes again this year, everyone will more than likely be groaning.

Friday’s snow day was the final emergency day the district had left out of the five it had at the beginning of the year. If another incident forces the school to close, administrators will have to take the time out of April vacation.

Definitely groan-worthy news for any family that already has vacation plans, but certainly less of a problem than the monetary hit the school would otherwise take.

New York school districts must hold 180 days of classes to receive their full foundation aid from the state — for each day below that number, received aid will be reduced one-180th.

It seems a small amount until it’s put against the $20.4 million in foundation aid Salmon River is supposed to receive for the 2012-13 school year. For every school closing that isn’t somehow made up by students, Salmon River would lose close to $114,000.

And those are really the only two options for the school in the case of another closing: April vacation or $114,000. The state in effect forces the hands of school administrators into vacation days once the standard five emergency days are taken up. The monetary penalty can only be waived “after all available scheduled vacation days have been used as session days” according to the state Education Department.

For those wondering why the school cannot just tack on snow days to the end of the year, the answer is, again, in state regulations. June 26 is the last day schools may legally hold instructional days for students. Staff will meet June 27 for a superintendent’s conference day to make up the last of the 180 days.

The five emergency days this school year were used as follows: on Oct. 7 a pump in the water system malfunctioned, Jan. 6 was a snow day and on Jan. 26 the control panel for the water filtration system failed in the early morning and then a plugged chimney filled the school with smoke at night, forcing the school to close again on Jan. 27. Then, Friday’s storm left the area blanketed in more than a foot of snow.

Salmon River has also had a multitude of delays this year due to sub-zero wind chill temperatures. Fortunately for the district, partial days still count toward the full 180 required for a school year.

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