State's school calendar ires local leaders
Published 4:26 pm, Thursday, January 15, 2015
The New Milford Board of Education is angling to chart its own course regarding the schools' calendar.
The state's uniform regional school calendar was passed by the General Assembly in 2014. It regiments school start dates and days for professional development and in-service training for certified employees, as well as school vacation periods.
The local board approved and signed a letter during its Monday meeting, requesting the public act that had implemented the calendar be "repealed or significantly modified."
As things stand, the state's calendar must be implemented for the 2016-17 school year, meaning Aug. 31 would be opening day.
That would put New Milford students seven days of school behind when compared with its starting date of recent years.
"To us, this seems like the state is hurting the education of our students," the letter reads. "We are most upset with the mandatory start date and we strongly urge you to at least repeal that aspect of the law."
David Shaffer, a board member, said the letter is necessary because "the state is gobbling up more and more responsibilities that used to be handled locally."
"More importantly, now our students get the most days possible in before a tests like the SAT come up," Shaffer said. "The Smart Balance Test is going to be happening in March. We need to have our students prepared."
Patrice McCarthy, the deputy director of the state association, said initially there had been concern on the part of some education boards when the bill was passed.
"But the fact that calendars were developed regionally," she added, "gave most districts a chance to have their concerns met."
She noted there are five flex days that could be worked into a district's calendar and those might help New Milford resolve its scheduling dilemma.
"I don't think a repeal is likely," she said. "Perhaps another element of flexibility is possible to achieve. Modifications are viewed differently by legislators."
State Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26th) serves as a ranking member on the senate's education committee. She is "vehemently" opposed to the calendar.
"I'm putting a proposal forward this session to eliminate that mandate," Boucher said. "I believe the local school districts can regionally implement their own calendars. This is too much infringement."