Students in the New Canaan Public Schools will have classes on Columbus Day and Election Day this year, due to revisions to the 2013-2014 school calendar approved Monday by the Board of Education.
In addition, students will start school on Monday, August 26 — a day earlier than originally planned — in order to create more "buffer" in the school calendar to mitigate the impact of school closings due to snow and major storms.
The board, however, scrapped an idea to reduce either the winter break in February or spring break in April by two days. As approved, the last day of school in 2014 will be June 9.
Board of Education Chairman Alison Bedula said since the board's Feb. 4 meeting, at which the calendar was discussed, she had received numerous emails from parents expressing their preferences, "and I can tell that it breaks out about 50-50 ... for every family that wants a long winter break there's a family that wants a long spring break... and for every family that wants to start before Labor Day, there's another that wants to start after Labor Day... " She said the board would be making its decision purely based on instructional considerations.
Superintendent of Schools Mary Kolek said the calendar changes are predicated by the fact that the region has been getting hit with serious storms — such as Tropical Storm Irene, freak fall snow storm Alfred and Superstorm Sandy — every year for the past three years, causing school closings and resulting in the need to add school days to the end of the year. State law requires that all districts provide 180 days of school — like other communities, New Canaan exercises its option to offer 182 days, with two of the days in effect serving as another "buffer" within the school calendar.
With the potential for several school capital projects getting approved in the current budget session — some of which would need to be completed during the summer break in 2014, such as the windows project and repaving of the parking lot at South School — the school administration sees it as in the District's best interest to try to make next year's summer break as a long as possible.
Kolek said having a full day of school on Election Day won't be an issue — voting activities can be separated from school activities so as to minimize disruption. However it will require a change to school security protocols and the hiring of police officers to guard school facilities, she said. In addition, come the next Presidential Election in 2016, the schools will likely need to revert back to being closed, due to the high turnout and potential lack of parking, she said.
The board wrestled for some time with its decision whether to take days from the February or April break. As of earlier this month the board was reportedly considering doing away with February break entirely, however many parents objected to the idea.
Kolek said it was the administration's recommendation to take two days from the February break (which includes President's Day), as opposed to the April break. She said it made more sense to keep the kids in school at that time, as they are preparing to take standardized tests in March.
The board and administration also discussed the proposed 2014-2015 school calendar — however, the board agreed to table a vote on that calendar until it learns whether the aforementioned school capital projects are approved and what impact the project schedules will have on the summer break.