In the wake of this year’s seven snow days, and in a bid to accommodate parents’ wishes and state mandates, the Board of Education voted Thursday to eliminate four days of February vacation from this year’s calendar. The break had been scheduled for the week of Feb. 21-25.
February 9, currently scheduled to be a half-day at the high school for professional development, was rescheduled as a full day of school. President’s Day, Feb. 21, is a contractual holiday, and will remain a vacation day.
The board also agreed to revisit the school year calendar at its March 16 meeting in light of any snow days that may have occurred between now and then. If necessary, days could be eliminated from the scheduled April vacation to keep the district compliant with state laws, which mandate 180 days of instructional time before July 1.
In making its decision, the Board relied heavily on results from its “Snow Day Survey” which community members were invited to answer on-line. More than 1,500 families and 211 teachers responded and overwhelmingly supported eliminating the February vacation. Less popular proposed options included eliminating the April vacation and/or extending the school through the week of June 27.
If there are no additional snow days this year, the last day of school will be June 21.
Replacing February vacation with instructional time on just a few weeks’ notice puts the district in “uncharted waters,” according to schools Superintendent Michael Graner. A host of logistical concerns, including providing quality replacements for teachers who had planned trips or medical procedures for vacation week, as well as ensuring meaningful class time for students, now faces the board, administrators, and teachers.
“This is a very unusual circumstance requiring unusual, out-of-the-box thinking,” said Assistant Superintendent Cathy Patterson. Possibilities include team-teaching by classroom teachers and substitutes, and much of the instructional time during those four days will likely be spent on “concept review,” said Patterson, in advance of the Connecticut Mastery Tests.
In an effort to ensure the highest-quality substitute teachers are available to students, Patterson said the district should begin arranging for coverage now. “We have enough substitutes,” she said, “but if we are going to do this we need to call them before they make other plans.”
Because nearly 30 percent of parents indicated that their families had travel plans already scheduled for the erstwhile February break, board member Julia Cronin suggested that teachers prepare work packets for the students to bring on those trips.
After the board voted unanimously to eliminate the vacation, Graner said he would call parents and teachers Friday to notify them of the changed schedule
By the numbers:
- 1,506 parents responded to the survey.
- 69 percnt said their first choice was eliminating February vacation.
- 15 percent said their first choice was eliminating April vacation.
- 20 percent favored extending school to the week of June 27.
- 26 percent have plans to travel in Feb.
- 32 percent have plans to travel in April.
- 32 percent have plans to travel the week of June 27