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BOE takes on regional uniform calendar

Photo by Nelson Oliveira

Superintendent of Schools Mary Kolek and Board of Education Chairman Hazel Hobbs discuss the regional uniform calendar at a meeting Monday, April 7, at the New Canaan High School.

Though the Board of Education is not convinced of the benefits of a regional uniform calendar, the district is looking into how it would align the New Canaan school calendar with a uniform one, which, among other things, calls for a shorter February break and a start date in September.

Superintendent of Schools Mary Kolek told the board Monday that the upcoming changes would greatly impact the district, which has operated under a distinct calendar for years.

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.

"We don't necessarily see any cost savings with this at all," Kolek told the board Monday.

Kolek said each school district enacts calendars to align with local factors, such as holidays, board policies and professional development days.

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.

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.

New Canaan is a member of the Cooperative Educational Services region, which is roughly lower Fairfield County -- from Greenwich to Shelton.

The region would allow for five discretion dates, but New Canaan has 10 days that don't match with the uniform calendar in 2015-16. The region's proposed calendar for that year has a start date of Sept. 2, only two days off in February and 180 instructional days. New Canaan's preliminary calendar for 2015-16 has a start date of Aug. 27, a weeklong vacation in February and 182 school days.

Kolek said the regional calendar is "a little bit more restrictive than it needs to be in terms of local control."

"We have approximately 10 days that are different, so that's well beyond the five days that you're allowed for variance," she said.

The district's 182 instructional days were created so that students secure as many school days as possible even in years with multiple weather-related cancellations, according to Kolek.

Board member Dionna Carlson said the public should contact their state representatives and senators to defend the town's calendar as is. She said people should "let their opinions be known because we don't have a lot of control in changing this."

As for the February break, Carlson said the period allows faculty to have more time to take care of potential health issues and allows students to rest for a few extra days before April. Read Full Article 

"(An) extended period from Christmas vacation through April ... is a really long time for kids to be in school with only a short weekend break," she said.

The board agreed to write a statement to state legislators to communicate its opinion on the uniform calendar.

noliveira@bcnnew.com, 203-330-6582, @olivnelson

Nelson Oliveira

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