With both February and April vacations lost this year due to a hurricane, a blizzard and snow days, the Milford Board of Education is thinking about striking February vacation next school year, plus having students and teachers go to school on several holidays, including Rosh Hashanah and Veterans Day.
“Our goal was to capture five days from the calendar for 2013-14 to prevent what happened this year,” said School Supt. Dr. Elizabeth Feser. “This would create some breathing room.”
This year’s storms left no breathing room because there were 13 days that had to be made up. First the Board of Education eliminated February vacation, and then little by little April vacation was taken away, and school has been extended four days into June, scheduled to end now on June 21.
At the board’s recommendations, administrators surveyed teachers, staff and parents to find out what kind of calendar changes they would favor.
With 3,000 parents, or 30%, responding, and responses from 60% of staff, the administrators said they believed they had valid results and based some of their recommendations on the responses.
Feser said she had considered starting school two days earlier next year, but based on teacher responses recommended against that. Since teachers start school two days before students, a two-day bump would mean teachers would have to return to school almost two weeks before Labor Day. So she left the start day for students where it has been for the past few years, which is the Wednesday before Labor Day.
Some 80% of parents said they would not object to sending their children to school on Rosh Hashanah, and 70% of teachers responded likewise. Most responders also indicated they were okay with having school on Columbus Day and Veterans Day. So Feser is recommending that those three holidays become school days.
“We felt we would open on Veterans Day, but we want to publicly state that there will be a special lesson in school honoring veterans in a very special way,” Feser said.
February vacation would be eliminated, but students would have the Friday before February break typically occurred and then the following Monday, which is President’s Day, off from school, giving them two four-day weeks in row.
Dr. Feser said she looked at other options, such as having students go to school on Election Day, but she said that created problems for the Registrars of Voters.
“The issue becomes finding alternate polling places,” Feser said.
Feser considered making Martin Luther King Day a school day, but state law does not allow schools to cancel scheduled school vacation days if they occur in December or January.
Administrators also looked at having a March vacation instead of an April vacation, but since most Connecticut school districts have a week off in April, they decided to stick with an April break. Having different vacation weeks creates problems for teachers who work in one district and live in another district because then they and their children are on different holiday schedules.
School Board Chairman Tracy Casey suggested that Connecticut residents may just be resistant to change, and that’s why they haven’t moved to a March vacation.
Board members had several ideas. Christopher Saley, for example, said he would like school to start after Labor Day, and he’d like to see students return the week after New Year, rather than the day after, to give families more time to spend the holidays with each other.
The school board is expected to resume discussing the new school calendar and then vote on a calendar at its April business meeting, which is April 8 at 7 p.m. in the Board of Education conference at the Parsons Compex.