On Wednesday, the voted unanimously to alter the 2010-2011 school calendar to reflect the extraordinary number of snow days the district has had this year. A portion of the upcoming February break — Feb. 23, Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 — will be reinstated as student days, with the new last day of school planned for June 21.
Should there be up to two additional snow days, June 22 and 23 will be added as student days. The board agreed that school will not go beyond June 23, so in the event that a third, fourth, or fifth snow day is necessary, then April break will be shortened, beginning with April 18.
Graduation will not be later than June 23.
The board was in agreement that the quality of the students' education was adversely affected by the disjointed nature of January's schedule, and that continuity through February was essential. Board Vice Chair Ellen Uzenoff noted that she had received letters from students "begging to be in school," she said.
Board member Sonya Stack also said that "teachers have asked for instructional time now. The kids are lost" and want to be in school.
Interim Superintendent John Reed noted that "if I were free to solve the problem, then I would add an hour to school" instead of reinstating days. However, that solution, which was proposed by resident Susan Byer, is not permitted by the state. School on Saturdays and Sundays is also not permitted.
There is a precedent for this action.
During the 1995-1996 school year, the district had nine total snow days, with seven of the days occuring by Jan. 11. In that case, the district took back Presidents Day but not February break. Next, the board opted to go into late June, as well as reinstated some April break days.
The unofficial straw poll conducted among staff members by Dr. Reed indicated that staff were not supportive of an effort to go into late June.
"End of June days are not quality days," Reed noted. Reed also met with the PTO presidents while forming his recommendation.
Parents who attended the meeting were mostly in favor of maintaining the February break because of the financial and personal impacts that missed vacations would have. The board, along with Reed, noted that "the answer will not be absolutely perfect. It's a 'share the pain' approach."
Parents were also concerned about potential missed schoolwork. Parents of high school students in particular noted that missing days of honors and Advanced Placement classes would create undue stress.
"Weston teachers understand that this situation is unique," Reed noted. "We feel strongly that the timelines for making up work should be flexible, and not due on the first day back from vacation," he said. "People should go [on vacation] and not feel badly about not being there."
The board declined to take an official policy position on student absences, but suggested that teachers should "use their best judgment."
Assistant Superintendent Thomas Scarice noted that "there is a rhythm to instruction. We need direction on the calendar to get instruction settled."