School Dept. Considers Surveying Parents On School Calendar
Should the district go to a one-week March break instead of breaks in February and April? What about holding school on holidays or election days?
The School Committee had a preliminary look at the 2013-14 calendar last week, prompting a wide-ranging discussion about the length of the school year. It’s on people’s minds this year in particular because students will not be getting out of school until Monday, June 24, due to weather-related school cancellations.
The proposed calendar for 2013-14 has school starting on Wednesday, Aug. 28, and the last day of school as Friday, June 13. If all five “snow days” were needed, the end date would be pushed to June 20.
“We’re going to school almost the entire month of June,” said School Committee Chair David Green, referring to this school year. “Either we quit worrying about going to school the entire month of June, or do something about it.”
For Green, the two weeklong breaks in February and April are a natural starting point. Why not just one week in March, he asked.
“You go to school for four or five weeks, then you have a week off. You go to school for another four to five weeks and you have another week off,” Green said, referring to the school year between New Year’s Day and the April break. “I’d rather have the kids in school. I think that’s why we’ve got these buildings.”
Another suggestion was to allow school to be held on election days. There were two days off this year because of elections. Rhode Island is one of only a handful of states where schools are closed on election days.
Committeewoman Carolyn Mark said she's heard complaints more about the start of school than the end date.
"What I hear from parents is they’d much rather start after Labor Day and might be willing to go longer in June if they knew they would always have that week before Labor Day," Mark said. "And then you at least eliminate that instructional disruption."
Supt. Victor Mercurio had talked about how children need to learn basic school routines all over again after starting school on the Wednesday before Labor Day weekend, then having three days off before resuming again.
"Teachers have to start all over again with their students," he said. "They forget where their locker is, they forget their combination, they forget their bus, they forget what lunch – it’s a whole renewal process."
It was at this point Committeewoman Deidre Gifford suggested they try a survey of parents.
The ending of this story was inadvertly omitted. The rest is added here:
Chairman Green said he liked the idea of a survey, and would want it to include all options, including religious holidays like Good Friday and Rosh Hoshanah.
Mark voiced some reservations about that.
"That can be a little dangerous. You’ll have the majority that will say, 'Let’s keep Good Friday but let’s get rid of Rosh Hoshanah.'"
"Well, asking the question doesn’t hurt," said Green.
It was decided to put together a survey for School Committee members to review at their next meeting, on March 19.