At last night’s Board of Education meeting, the agenda called for board members to consider and approve the proposed calendar for the 2016-2017 school year. The calendar had been introduced at the Dec. 17, 2015 meeting, and last night the board revisited the topic after receiving what chairman Bruce Likly called “a tremendous amount of feedback” from members of the public.

Likly said that the calendar’s unusually late start–after Labor Day, in September–reflected the Board’s desire to give as much time as possible for work on Miller-Driscoll renovation project.  “The reason that we’re reopening the calendar is purely to make more time in the summer to enable construction to happen more effectively at Miller-Driscoll. We did ask for input from the public as we do on all topics Board related, and we’ve gotten a tremendous amount of feedback and input.”

Among the issues parents raised with next year’s school calendar were:

  • Only one week of vacation in December for holiday recess, Dec. 26-30. The district will observe New Year’s Day on Monday, Jan. 2, so the first day back for students and employees will be Tuesday, Jan. 3.
  • Spring recess in April, rather than March.
  • Delayed openings for teacher professional development that disrupt family and work schedules.

Administrators also pointed out that a break in March rather than April would better benefit the learning and testing schedules.

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith explained that administrators were forced to structure the calendar as they had because of direction at the state level.

“Several years ago, by state statute, districts were mandated to participate in a regional calendar. The goal behind regionalizing calendars was to create efficiencies across districts. There was a theory about districts having opportunities to share professional learning days. Some of the efforts to regionalize the calendar was to ease those kinds of collaborations,” Smith said, noting that it was hoped that those efficiencies would be cost-saving as well.

He added that even though districts were given five ‘flexible’ days with which they could customize the calendar as needed to address any specifically local concerns–like the M-D construction needs, for example–the district was still limited in what they could do.

“The challenge is we don’t have complete discretion to set our own calendar because we do have to adhere to the law.”

Likly addressed some of the concerns that parents have expressed, including limited vacation time and the high cost increases and difficulties of transportation “when we’re competing against everyone else in our region for transportation, hotels, what have you.”

The board discussed the option of changing Spring Break 2017 from April to March, even though that would be breaking the law, because the state mandates and April Spring Break. Board member Glen Hemmerle mentioned “the feedback we had gotten from parents in emails to do March break instead of April.” When Smith suggested that parents would be upset about such a change now because they may have already begun making travel plans for that week, Likly disagreed.

“Based on the emails we’ve gotten, I don’t think people would be too upset if we changed it now,” he said, acknowledging that such a change would be against the law as it didn’t agree with the state-set calendar–and that he, as the BoE chair would feel the repercussion. (At one point in the meeting, the board members joked that Likly would face jail time if they decided to move the Spring Break. BOE vice-chair Christine Finkelstein laughed but noted for the record that she thought it would be best if the BoE did not break the law.)

Likly said he couldn’t see the cost benefits gained from regionalization as justifying the costs incurred by Wilton families. But, intimating that the decision was out of the hands of local officials, Likly encouraged residents who are unhappy with the calendar to “email the governor and let him know that it’s lousy.”

One thing Likly alluded to was that there is talk in education circles at the state level that Gov. Dannel Malloy and the State Board of Education may be “testing the waters” with the calendar regionalization to lay the groundwork to implement regional boards of education, and eliminate local boards.

“People need to be aware of that,” he said.

Smith added that there will be a meeting of superintendents from neighboring districts today (Friday, Jan. 8) and he would raise the question to see what other districts are thinking on the issue. Likly asked Smith to communicate to his superintendent colleagues in other districts that perhaps parents throughout the region could be organized to help as well.

Smith said that the regional districts might agree to try and get the Spring Break changed regionally, especially if everyone would benefit in the area of testing. However, because most of the other districts had already adopted their own 2016-2017 calendars, it might be better to hold off on actively pushing for such a change regionally until it was time to discuss the 2017-2018 calendar.

The board ultimately decided to push off their final approval of the calendar until the next meeting on Jan. 28 so that Smith could attend the superintendents’ meeting and assess what other districts are doing, and what solutions, if any, the Wilton BoE might implement in 2016-17 rather than later.

One reply on “Resident Feedback Makes Bd. of Education Delay Okay of 2016-17 School Calendar”

  1. In my day it seemed Xmas was at least 10 plus days and spring breaks were late March to early April.Time for ski trip, or going south.

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