State grants schools waiver for 179 days

Upperclassmen at Ridgefield High School will have to get up for one extra day next year, thanks to a waiver granted by the state Board of Education Wednesday, June 6.

The waiver allows Ridgefield schools to hold class for 179 days this year, with an extra make-up day tacked on to the 2018-19 calendar.

Education Commissioner Dianna Wentzell said the extra day would apply to the high school, with rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors going to school 181 days next year.

She recommended that the Connecticut State Board of Education (CSBE) “require the district to make up the lost day during the 2018-19 school year, which would require a minimum of 181 days for Ridgefield High School.”

The state requires schools to hold class for 180 days and have at least 900 hours of actual instruction. However, Ridgefield Public Schools have traditionally had grades kindergarten through high school freshmen start one day before high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors, meaning the younger students already have one extra day baked-in to their school year. The waiver applies to older high school students who start one day after their younger peers, and therefore will only attend class for 179 days this year.

Acting Superintendent Robert Miller said the schools have not yet determined where the extra school day would be added to the 2018-19 school year.

Macroburst, tornadoes

The schools applied for the waiver last month, after a “macroburst” storm leveled trees and dropped power wires in northern Ridgefield, forcing schools to close for two days. The second closure pushed past the last storm makeup day the schools had available in June, as the state prohibits schools from holding class into July, or holding class on a weekend.

The state said the freak storm included a number of tornado touchdowns.

“On May 15, 2018, a series of tornadoes set down in the state of Connecticut. Due to the significant storm damage in Southern Connecticut, Ridgefield’s public schools were closed on May 16th and May 17th,” Wentzell’s memo to the board said.

“The last day of school scheduled for Ridgefield’s high school is June 29th. If there are no further unanticipated closings, grades kindergarten through 9 will attend 180 days of school this year. However, the high school students in grades 10 through 12 will only have attended school for 179 days.”

Miller told the town school board on May 29 that he had reached out to school administrators about possibly holding school on Memorial Day, after another school district affected by the storm had a request for a waiver denied. Only 15% of staff who responded said they could definitely work on Memorial Day, prompting the district to leave the holiday in place.

Miller could not be reached for comment regarding the cost of adding an extra day to next year’s school calendar.