Thanks to cancellations, Cape Elizabeth school calendar faces uncharted territory

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CAPE ELIZABETH — Nine cancellations so far this year have pushed the last day of school for grades K-11 from June 11 to June 22 and may tack on an extra hour to the school day for seniors.

The School Board on March 15 discussed how to make up for the days, which were canceled because of weather, power outages, and one closure due to safety concerns

Interim Superintendent of Schools Howard Colter was charged with submitting an application to the Department of Education to reduce the minimum requirement for student instruction up to five days, which would allow Cape Elizabeth to end the school year June 15.

“I’ve asked before for one or two (days), but I’ve never asked for five,” Colter said on March 15.

According to the DOE website, the requirement is 175 instructional days for students in grades K-11 and 170 days for high school seniors. 

On March 27, however, Colter said he thinks it is unlikely DOE will grant the waiver, because waivers may only be granted after school officials have exhausted all reasonable avenues to make up for missed days. 

Suggested avenues include adding days to the school year, rescheduling or shortening vacations, holding classes on the weekend, or adding anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour to the end or beginning of the school day.

“We have considered adding an hour to each day – five hours counts as a school day – looked at Saturday classes, looked at taking a day from the April break, etc.,” Colter said in a March 27 email. “Each has its problems for families and teachers.”

Each year the school calendar includes five extra days of instructional time in case of cancellations, and educators hope they don’t go past that, according to Colter. 

Graduation is scheduled for Sunday, June 10, which is the first Sunday after the extra week allotted for cancellations. 

Barring any more cancellations, Colter said, seniors must make up four days to graduate on time, in addition to the five make-up days already scheduled. He added that the School Department and families have made graduation plans for June 10 and the department “plan(s) to honor that.”

“This is all so tricky,” Colter said. “… My impression is that the DOE will feel we have not done enough to make up days to justify a waiver … I am thinking that we will just add (all nine of) the lost days to the end of the school year.”

As of March 28, DOE Director of Communications Rachel Paling said the department had received requests for waivers from 14 school districts, including Cape Elizabeth, although she was unable to immediately identify the other 13.

“Any more cancellations and we’re into the very last week of June,” Colter said. “That’s pretty unheard of.”

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or Follow her on Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.