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BOE mulls two calendars

Long February break or short February break?

That's the question the Board of Education is facing as it considers two possible state-mandated calendars for the 2015-16 school year.

The General Assembly's Education Committee convened the Uniform Regional School Calendar Task Force with the goal to find savings, especially in areas such as transportation and teacher training.

However, a bill to delay the implementation of the calendar from 2015-16 to 2016-17 and to allow districts to waive enactment for yet another year, 2017-18, will be reviewed by the Legislature in May.

"At the risk of jumping the gun a bit, I will say that if the state votes to allow districts to choose not to go with the mandated calendar in 2015-16, we would recommend that we put forth option C for the board's consideration," interim Superintendent Lynne Pierson said.

Assistant Superintendent for Secondary Education Tim Canty said his understanding is that there is uncertainty when or even if the bill will be reviewed.

A survey was conducted in the district to gather parent and staff feedback regarding the possible calendars.

Canty said that of the 115 parent responses he received regarding the calendar change, 40 percent were in favor of having a February break. The remaining were in favor of having a long weekend in February instead.

Rich Fisco, president of the Darien Educators Association, told Canty that the majority of staff responses he received favored the first option.

Canty told the board that parents who favored having a long February break did so because of the opportunity for a family vacation. Parents also spoke of spring high school athletes having a vacation they would not otherwise have because of scheduled games during April break.

"Another set of comments from parents spoke to the health of students, interestingly, in terms of rest and recharge," Canty said. "There was also some health considerations around that fact that at that time of year, it's not a bad idea to take time off."

Conversely, those who favored a shorter February break did so for the opportunity to have an earlier end of school. Canty said there was "frequent mention" of the length of the school year due to snow days.

Some parents expressed that the two weeklong breaks after winter break disrupt the learning process.

Independent surveys at Tokeneke, Royle and Ox Ridge elementary schools were conducted and it was a near draw for which option was preferred more. Read Full Article 

According to Canty, 199 parents favored having a weeklong February break, while 197 parents favored a long weekend.

Among the guidelines submitted by the task force in January are at least 180 days of school, a uniform start date, uniform days for professional development and in-service training for certified employees, and not more than three uniform school vacation periods during each school year. Of those, not more than two shall be a one-week school vacation period and one shall be during the summer. The winter break is factored in to the calendar. Darien is a member of the Cooperative Educational Services region, which is roughly lower Fairfield County -- from Greenwich to Shelton.

Both proposed calendars would move the school start date from the Monday before Labor Day to the Wednesday before the holiday.

Board member Crista McNamara asked when the school board would need to act on the proposed calendars.

"This is still an open issue," board Chairman Betsy Hagerty-Ross said.

"I wouldn't wait too long because it is important for people to get to know what the calendar looks like," Pierson said.

The board will consider the proposed calendars again at its first May meeting.

mspicer@bcnnew.com; 203-330-6583; @Meg_DarienNews

Megan Spicer

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