Spring vacation for Fairfield public school students next year has been changed to mid-April by the Board of Education, reversing a change approved late last year.
The 7-2 vote to schedule spring vacation from April 13-17 in 2015 followed about 15 minutes of discussion at the board's Tuesday night meeting. On Dec. 10, the board had voted 5-4 to have spring vacation from March 30 through April 6. The three board members who switched their votes from Dec. 10 were Jessica Gerber, the board's secretary, John Llewellyn and Jennifer Maxon-Kennelly.
Maxon-Kennelly at he December meeting had made the motion for the earlier spring vacation, but asked last week that the board revisit the approved 2014-15 student calendar. She said she didn't think enough residents knew she planned to propose moving spring vacation ahead by two weeks next year.
Joseph Arrigo of Papermill Lane, the only member of the audience to speak on the 2014-15 student calendar at Tuesday night's meeting, favored April 13-17, which was the original recommendation of Superintendent of Schools David G. Title.
Arrigo said the earlier vacation was designed to accommodate high school students' interests, but the date of spring vacation affects middle school and elementary school students as well. Back on Dec. 10, Maxon-Kennelly said the earlier vacation would better accommodate student athletes and upperclassmen who plan to visit colleges and take Advanced Placement exams.
Arrigo, a mathematics teacher at Norwalk High School, said it also wasn't a good idea to lengthen the amount of time between the end of spring break and end of the academic year. "The last thing you want to do is add time between the end of spring break and summer vacation," he said. "It's that much more difficult to maintain class focus. After spring break, there's a little bit of a let down."
Arrigo said the weather in April also likely would be warmer.
Gerber said she previously voted for the earlier vacation, but "the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable it became."
The earlier vacation, Gerber said, meant about 100 Fairfield students in regional Cooperative Educational Services' programs would haven't a spring vacation since the CES vacation in 2015 will be from April 13-17. Gerber said the earlier vacation also didn't benefit student athletes because practices for spring sports teams start March 23 and students have to participate in practices before they can play in games. "It wasn't helping on that front either," she said.
School board member Marc Patten said he visited two PTAs in the past week and that their members were "overwhelmingly in favor" of a spring vacation from April 13-17. "Between the athletes and the CES students, it's the only thing that makes sense," he said.
But school board member Eileen Liu-McCormack, who voted against changing the vacation Tuesday night, said the amount of time from the end of winter vacation to spring vacation seems like such a long stretch" when the latter is in mid-April. Board member John Convertito, though, said the amount of time between the first day of school and winter vacation was actually longer.
Maxon-Kennelly, though, said the stretch from September to late December includes days off (such as the Thanksgiving holiday) and was "far more broken up." Earlier, she said the intent of the March 30 through April 6 vacation was to benefit all students because she believed it was "more educationally sound" to have spring break at "the midway point between December and June."
Paul Fattibene, the school board's vice chairman, voted against the earlier vacation Dec. 10, but said Tuesday night that he doesn't like to revisit decisions. "Some families may have taken planning steps and now we're flip-flopping and going back to the original calendar" as recommended by Title, he said. Nevertheless, Fattibene voted in favor of moving the vacation to April 13-17.
In addition to Liu-McCormack, board member Donna Karnal also voted against changing the spring vacation to April 13-17.
Llewellyn said, "I kind of like the March vacation, but at the end of the day, nobody's going to be happy." He said the earlier vacation meant Fairfield residents who are teachers in other towns would be "off kilter with their kids."