School districts to align schedules with neighboring towns
Published 4:46 pm, Monday, December 28, 2015
As public school officials around the state assemble their 2016-17 academic calendars, they have to accommodate more than just parents and teachers.
For the first time, each school district will need to cooperate with neighboring districts to line up their 180-day school schedule. A new state law requiring districts to adopt a regional calendar goes into full effect next fall.
For some districts, it’s been no problem.
However, New Milford’s Board of Education originally protested the idea and even petitioned for the law to be “repealed or significantly modified.”
New Milford typically opens earlier than what is planned under the Uniform Regional Schools Calendar. The school board felt New Milford students would be adversely affected by losing days at the start of the year.
A letter, signed by the entire New Milford board, was sent to the state Senate and House education committees and the deputy director and general counsel of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education in January 2015.
However, New Milford ultimately decided to use some of the five “flex” days the law allows to open a few days earlier than the planned Sept. 1 start date.
Region 12 Superintendent of Schools Pat Cosentino said she and the education board like the “flexibility” in the calendar and the fact that professional development days would be the same in their regional calendar district.
“We are able to adjust our first day of school,” Consentino said Monday. “I like the fact that all of us will have the same professional development days. Even though it changes when our PD will fall, it gives us flexibility to work with other school districts near us. We can share the cost of bringing a specialist in, say, to delve into the math program or literacy. The board was very supportive of the change.”
New Milford and Region 12 are in the Education Connection region, which also includes Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, Kent, New Fairfield, Newtown, Region 1, Region 6 and Sherman.
A long time coming
A unified calendar has been in the works for some time. It was approved in 2014 by the General Assembly and districts were given a couple of years grace period to conform.
Chris LaBelle, associate executive director at Cooperative Educational Service and part of the state’s original uniform calendar task force, said the regional calendar is mostly designed to be a framework for districts to follow.
The idea, he said, was to help districts save money. If more districts follow the same school calendar, for example, districts won’t end up running buses to the one regional school still open during a break.
The common schedule can also cut down on professional development costs.
And it can give some families common vacation periods.
“If someone works in one district and their kids go to school in another district, they don’t get the same week off all the time,” LaBelle said. “Plus, some have kids in multiple districts. So parents benefit.”
The state law led to the creation of six public school calendars, one for each regional service center in the state.
Under state law, the calendar needs to include at least 180 school days for students, a uniform start date, two uniform teacher training days and three uniform vacation periods, including a summer break, a week-long winter break at the end of December and a week-long break in April.
Districts on the CES regional calendar will have school on both Columbus Day and Veterans Day. They will be off on Election Day. The February break, no longer a week, is a four-day weekend wrapped around Presidents Day. The start of school next year will be Sept. 1, 2016, the Thursday before Labor Day.