School will be open in the School District of the Chathams on Feb. 18, the school board voted Monday.
The 6-2 vote to have school on Presidents Day came after a discussion of the school days missed after Tropical Storm Sandy hit the area.
Schools were closed for a full week after the storm, using up the district's entire reserve of five snow days for the year. Milton Avenue School, Southern Boulevard School and Washington Avenue School remained closed an additional day.
The school was able to schedule two make-up days on Nov. 8 and 9, but this leaves Lafayette Avenue School, Chatham High School and Chatham Middle School with only two snow days for the rest of the year and the K-3 schools with only one snow day.
"The first question is, how many school days does the board want to recapture," Superintendent Michael LaSusa said. "The second question is, what days does it want to take back."
Scheduling extra days of school now, LaSusa said, would put three snow days for the upper schools and two for the lower schools in the bank, in case more extreme weather hits the area.
"Last year, for example, we made up all the days, and then we never had a snow day," LaSusa said.
Major national holidays remaining in the school year include New Year's Eve (Monday, Dec. 31), New Year's Day (a national holiday, Tuesday, Jan. 1), Martin Luther King Day (Monday, Jan. 21), Presidents Day (Monday, Feb. 18) and Memorial Day (Monday, May 27). There is also a week for spring break in March.
"The benefit of scheduling it [earlier rather than later] is, you're capturing days before the snow might hit, whereas if the snow hits in the last week of January and the first two weeks of February, you don't have as many options," LaSusa said.
Parents have already asked the board to preserve spring break for students who wish to tour colleges without falling behind on schoolwork. However, if more school days are required, taking days out of spring break is an option to make up the missed days of school.
For high school students, LaSusa said, "We can make other accommodations" if the district has school over spring break. "We can excuse college visits, or have a moritorium on tests and quizzes."
This move would also affect high school students who wish to take jobs or internships over spring break, and vacations for families.
Another option would be to have some Saturday sessions of school, but LaSusa said this would "disproportionally affect Jewish families" in the district, including students and staff.
Having school on Tuesday, Jan. 1, which is otherwise a national holiday, was another option discussed briefly.
LaSusa said another option, one which he himself did not advocate, was to move graduation to accommodate additional class days. This, too, would affect any summer jobs or internships for high school students. Additionally, Chatham High Principal Darren Groh said, the Chatham High PTO has to schedule Project Graduation a full year in advance, and the date is already locked.
"Obviously every Board of Education is having these kinds of discussions," LaSusa said. Westfield schools, for example, will have a full day of school on Presidents Day and a half-day on Martin Luther King Day. Livingston will have school on Presidents Day.
"I do not believe that it is appropriate on Martin Luther King Day. I believe that is the one symbolic holiday at the current time that I personally would rather stay away from," LaSusa said.
Board Member Matthew Gilfillan said he believed Martin Luther King Day would be better observed by having students in school and learning about the civil rights leader rather than being on vacation.
"In this town, most people [are] somewhere skiing that day. They're not doing Martin Luther King programs. I think the kids benefit much more if we have school that day and spend the day learning about Martin Luther King and what he did for this country," Gilfillan said.
Board Member Al Burgunder disagreed, saying, "I think this is a national holiday for a very important figure." Despite the extreme weather which prompted the discussion in both 2011 and now in 2012, "I think this is not a precendence we should keep going."
Board Member Richard Connors said he believed Presidents Day was a national holiday honoring the nation's leaders and was also deserving of observation similar to Martin Luther King Day. "If we're going to do it, then we should take both," he said, "and save that March holiday [spring break]."
Board President Thomas K. Belding proposed that the board amend the calendar to have a full day of school on Presidents Day, since the board had scheduled school on Martin Luther King Day in 2011. "Why don't we swap those," he said.
Belding moved the board vote to have a full day of school on Presidents Day. The amendment to the school calendar passed 6-0, with Board Members Phil Franz and Kim Cronin abstaining from the vote.