This month, district school committees are continuing to talk about changing the school calendar. This time, the combined committees will focus on potential changes to the holiday schedule for next year.
In preparation, the district has been surveying parents. The survey being used this fall is different than the version shared last spring. So even if you responded then, you may want to take a minute to respond again before the October 13th deadline.
And a minute is about all it should take. This version is short and sweet with only 6 questions. Only two of those relate to the school calendar:
- How interested are you in changing the current school calendar? (very, somewhat, or not at all)
- Do you prefer (choose one)
- A student calendar that mirrors the current 2017-2018 student calendar
- A student calendar that includes legal holidays, traditional December, February and April vacations, and eliminates all cultural and religious observances
- Other (with a field to comment)
The first four questions are just about demographics (which town you are from, parent/teacher/community member, school level of children, etc.).
You may be surprised that there aren’t questions related to school breaks this time. That’s because the district has split changing the calendar into a phased approach. Issues related to religious and school holidays are the focus for the coming year.
Superintendent Christine Johnson has been taking a cautious approach to changes, with lots of communication. It’s clearly based on what she observed in the months prior to her promotion from Assistant Superintendent.
In his final year as superintendent, Dr. Charles Gobron brought a proposal to eliminate school holidays to the school committees. There was an outcry from the religious (especially Jewish) community over requiring students to choose between their faith and education. Gobron retracted the proposal based on the community reaction.
As Gobron forewarned, the number of students who practice faiths other than christianity or judiasm has increased. With that, questions of fairness about choosing between faith and education have been re-raised. The school committee is now grappling with how to fairly handle the issue for other religions. One idea they are floating again is to level the playing field by eliminating all religious holidays.
At that time Gobron had studied school changes, he expressed personal concerns about interruptions early in the school year, “when learning is optimal”. If the policy doesn’t change, the timing of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur would call for three holidays next September (including Labor Day). That would mean the first five-day week of school wouldn’t start until September 24th.
On the other hand. . . Yom Kippur didn’t impact the calendar this year since it began over a weekend. But, the schools chose to interrupt what would have been the first five-day week with a K-8 early dismissal on September 14th.
That half day pushed the first full week of school for K-8th graders this year to September 25th. So, interruptions may not be a pet peeve of current administrators.
After next year’s calendar is resolved, expect the district to launch another survey about changes. That one is likely to focus on the timing, number and length of school vacation breaks for the 2019-20 school year calendar.
The discussion of the 2018-19 calendar is scheduled for the Combined School Commitees meeting, 7:00 pm on October 25 in the Algonquin Regional High School library.
Updated (10/5/17 10:46 am): I forgot to include the survey link!