REGION 4— The Region 4 school boards will consider a proposed 2013-2014 school calendar that cuts the February vacation week to two days and holds classes on the second Monday in November, Veterans Day holiday.
The revised 2013-2014 calendar received a consensus endorsement at a meeting Wednesday of a calendar committee comprised of members of the four district school boards. The group also endorsed minor changes to the current year calendar in an effort to prepare for possible snow cancellations this winter after already losing five days of school to Storm Sandy during the week of Oct. 29-Nov. 2.
For the current calendar, the committee endorsed a change to make Friday Jan. 18 an early dismissal day to allow for one additional snow cancellation day. The summer closing day is now June 24, but the graduation ceremony for the Valley Regional High School Class of 2012 remains fixed on Thursday June 20. Any additional snow cancellation days would be made up with days taken from the spring vacation week set for April 15-19.
The committee spent nearly two hours discussing, and sometimes differing, on a 2013-2014 calendar presented by Superintendent of Schools Ruth Levy. The superintendent noted the calendar must accommodate the 180 school days requires by state law, and an additional five days for teachers and other staff required under existing union contracts. These must also be at least 18 hours for staff professional development activities.
The proposed 2013-2014 calendar again closes school on the Jewish holy days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, though in 2013 this requires only one closing day for Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 5. The district began honoring the Jewish holidays this year in response to appeals from Jewish parents and students.
But the current calendar also opened schools on the traditional second Monday in October, Columbus Day holiday. Levy acknowledged there had been “a few comments” from residents objecting to holding classes last month on Columbus Day. For 2013, Columbus Day would be a day off for students, but a professional development day for staff.
The 2013-2014 calendar for the first time would open schools on the second Monday in November, Veterans Day holiday. Schools had been closed on Veterans Day this year. Levy said she would work with local veterans groups to present in school educational programs on the meaning of Veterans Day for 2013.
Another big change for 2013-2014 is the shortening of the February winter vacation from a week to two days, including Presidents Day on the third Monday in February. Levy said there is a trend in state school districts, including nearby districts using the Project Lean model calendar, to shorten the February break. She noted the winter months are “meat and potatoes time,” for classroom instruction. But some committee members, particularly Region 4 board member Jennifer Clark of Essex, contended the near eliminatiion of the February break would be a “big shock” for some parents.
Clark suggested holding school on Nov. 27, 2013, the day before Thanksgiving, and adding one day back to the February vacation. For the first time this month, district schools were closed on the day before Thanksgiving. Levy said this was partly a response to labor contracts that required Columbus Day as a holiday, but was also a response to high absentee rates on the day before Thankgiving that is usually a big travel day for some families. Schools had previously been open for only a half day on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
After discussion, the committee endorsed the option of closing again on the day before Thanksgiving, and cutting the February 2014 winter break to two days, Monday-Tuesday Feb. 17-18 2014. The proposed 2013-2014 calendar that will be formally adopted by district school boards in the coming weeks also allows for an early summer closing in June 2014. Barring snow days or major storms, district schools would close on June 11 in 2014.