The Board of Education on Tuesday approved starting the 2013-14 school year on Thursday, Aug. 29, and ending on Wednesday, June 11, not accounting for any changes forced by bad weather.
A draft calendar for the next academic year initially proposed the start date of Thursday, Aug. 29, but a motion was added to the Tuesday's agenda recommending that classes start on Aug. 27. Several board members at their last meeting discussed starting earlier, such as Aug. 26 or Aug. 27, after Superintendent of Schools David Title suggested that could avoid being in session through the end of June if there were multiple weather-related cancellations.
Board member John Convertito, however, Tuesday night made a motion to amend the motion to start the school year on Aug. 29 instead of Aug. 27.
"I don't think moving the start of the school year up two days buys us anything," he said, adding that teachers should not have to come back to school on Aug. 21 or 22 in order to prepare for the earlier start. "I think it's counterproductive."
Ann Pasco, president of the Fairfield Education Association, the local teachers' union, said school should not be pushed to the earlier date of Aug. 27 because the calendar already has seven "no-school" days built into it.
Earlier in the meeting, board member Jennifer Maxon Kennelly noted that she had brought up the issue of the Veterans Day holiday during the initial calendar discussion at the November meeting. She said she would not make a motion at the meeting that classes be held on Veterans Day, but brought up the issue to explain that she agrees with some veterans' view that Fairfield schools had been doing a "poor job" several years ago in teaching students about what veterans have done for the nation.
"It is because I believe they are missing that lesson that I brought up the issue of school on Veterans Day," she said, acknowledging the numerous veterans at the meeting. "In no size, shape or form will you ever hear the issue brought up because I think we need to make up for a hurricane, that it is because we need to get out of school earlier in June," she said.
Kennelly opposed the motion to move the start date back two days to Aug. 27 because she does not consider starting earlier in August as healthier than ending the school year in early June, which she also views as not a good choice for education's sake. She also said it would require teachers to come in earlier before classes get under way.
Vice Chairwoman Pamela Iacono recommended a motion to close schools on Veterans' Day as a matter of board policy so veterans do not have to keep going before the board every year during discussion of the academic calendar to ask that schools be closed on that holiday.
Board Chairman Philip Dwyer ruled her motion out of order because, he said, there was a motion already on the table to adopt the calendar and the board handbook suggests that decisions on a motion not be made at the same meeting it is suggested. He said he would refer the Veterans Day issue to the board's Policy Committee.
Several veterans at the meeting advocated for closing schools on Veterans Day.
"I'm not sure why this issue keeps coming up, sometimes obliquely," said Roger Crossland, a retired Navy captain who lives on Colonial Drive, noting the school board has discussed whether or not to hold classes on Veterans' Day in previous years. "Why do we have to fight this battle yearly?"
Iacono also made a motion to amend the main motion to move a professional development day resulting in early dismissal at the elementary schools from Feb. 4 to Feb. 13, but that motion failed by a vote of 0-9.
Like this year's academic calendar, the 2013-14 schedule does not include a February vacation to allow for seven "no-school" makeup days through year's end so that the April break would not be affected. There will be no classes on several days in February, however -- Friday, Feb. 14, for a professional development day, and Monday, Feb. 17, for Presidents Day .
The calendar also sets winter vacation from Monday, Dec. 23, through Wednesday, Jan. 1, and April vacation from Monday, April 14, through Friday, April 18.
Other scheduled days off include: Monday, Sept. 2, for Labor Day; Thursday, Sept. 5, for Rosh Hashanah; Tuesday, Nov. 5, for Election Day, and Monday, Nov. 11, for Veterans Day. School will also be out Thursday, Nov. 28, and Friday, Nov. 29, for Thanksgiving recess; Monday, Jan. 20, for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and Monday, May 26, for Memorial Day.
Early-dismissal days at the elementary schools only include: Wednesdays, March 26 and April 2, and Thursday, April 3, for parent-teacher conferences, as well as Tuesdays, Oct. 1 and Feb. 4. There are also early-dismissal days for elementary and middle schools for parent-teacher conferences on Thursdays, Oct. 17 and 24, and Wednesday, Oct. 23.
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