From her vantage point in Northwest Woods, all Patricia Hope can see is snow, snow, and more snow.
“It’s been a snowscape for a month,” said Ms. Hope on Tuesday morning, just as snow turned to rain and back to snow again. “Under the snow, there’s ice, and under the ice, there’s slush. It’s just dreadful. I find myself in the position of praying for mud”
Ms. Hope, a resident of East Hampton since 1970 and president of the East Hampton School Board, called this winter “extraordinary.” As a former science teacher, now retired, she could not recall a year when instructional days took such a hit.
All across the South Fork, snow days have resulted in school officials scrambling to make up for lost time, with many districts shortening upcoming vacations as a solution. With a month of winter still to go, some fear that still more vacation days may be sacrificed before warmer temperatures prevail.
Public schools must follow a 180-day state mandate. If they provide fewer than 180 days of instruction they face steep fines, which are tied to state aid. Private schools, by contrast, can set their own schedules.
In East Hampton, two snow days are already included in the annual academic calendar. Given the tally of three snow days so far (and numerous two-hour delayed openings), the district has begun subtracting days from the upcoming spring break, with students and teachers now expected back in class on Monday, April 14, which would have been the first day of the break. Should further snow days be necessary, additional vacation days will be subtracted from that week.
“It’s very unusual,” said Richard Burns, the East Hampton superintendent. “I have been here since 1990, and it has never happened before. Unfortunately, severe weather patterns seem to be part of our climate now.”
Tim Morrin, an observation program leader with the National Weather Service, described this winter as “remarkable in regard to snowfall.” Though not unprecedented, he said it ranked among the snowiest seasons on record.
Long Island MacArthur Airport in Islip is the National Weather Service’s closest climatological site. Including Tuesday morning’s two inches of snow, Mr. Morrin said the total for the 2013-2014 season was 57.5 inches. “It’s the third snowiest season on record,” he said — snow has been measured at Islip since 1984 “and only an inch below the number-two spot.” Long Island saw its snowiest winter in 1995-1996, when Islip accumulated 73.5 inches.
School administrators can only hope the worst is over.
Carl Bonuso, Sag Harbor’s superintendent, said his district has similarly used three snow days, with two already built into the calendar. Along with East Hampton, Sag Harbor plans to use April 14 as a makeup day of instruction.
Lois Favre, the Bridgehampton superintendent, said three inclement weather days were provided on the academic calendar. But with four so far, the district plans to sacrifice a staff development day for classes, thereby preventing the need to subtract days from its spring recess. Should any more snow days occur, students and staff will see a shortened spring break.
“We are considering building in an extra inclement weather day for next year,” said Ms. Favre.
Superintendent Eleanor Tritt of the Amagansett School said the school had called four snow days so far, with only two built into its calendar. “We will discuss how the days will be made up when we return from the February break,” she said.
The Springs School has also called four snow days. Elizabeth Mendelman, the school board president, said that two days had been on the calendar. Had they gone unused, the extra days would have been added to the Memorial Day weekend. The district has yet to announce how it plans to make up the two days of lost instructional time.
The Ross School, meanwhile, has four snow days on its books, including a handful of days when the start of classes was delayed by two hours because ice and freezing temperatures made morning travel prohibitive. Kristen Hyland, Ross’s public relations director, explained that Ross, as a private school, does not have to make up the lost instructional time.
The Sagaponack School, meanwhile, plans to have its students attend class on Monday. Though originally included as part of this week’s midwinter recess, it has been added back as an instructional day.
Out in the easternmost hamlet, the Montauk School has accrued five snow days. Jack Perna, the district superintendent, said two of them would be made up over the Memorial Day weekend (when a long break had been planned), with the Monday following the Easter holiday also a day of instruction. Additionally, a superintendent’s conference day for staff and faculty will be a day of classes instead.
“That leaves us with one day to make up during spring break. We are not yet sure if we are going to do that,” said Mr. Perna, explaining that while the state does require 180 instructional days, three can be designated teachers’ conference days. “The Board of Education could excuse the day, but like I said, we are still just trying to get through the winter.”