Calendar: Fairfield school board mulls development days, February break
FAIRFIELD — As the Board of Education took a first look at the 2020-2021 school calendar, members already had some ideas for changes.
Among suggested alterations to the draft calendar presented at Tuesday night’s meeting were a different first day of school, fewer professional development days and reconsidering a weeklong February break.
The start of school on Monday, Aug. 31 — later than usual due to the timing of Labor Day — was of particular concern for Board member Jennifer Jacobsen, who noted that it would require sixth and eighth grade orientations to take place the Friday before, cutting off the last weekend of summer for families.
Superintendent of Schools Mike Cummings said he would look to see if the first day could be moved to Tuesday, Sept. 1, which would push orientations forward to Monday.
Board members also pointed out some larger structural issues with the calendar that they’d like to look at improving for future years, even if they won’t be possible in 2020-2021.
Vice Chair Nick Aysseh and Board member Trisha Pytko both mentioned the large amount of time off for conferences and professional training — totaling to 10 early dismissal days and two full days off. These days, they argued, can pose childcare difficulties for families.
Cummings recognized these concerns, but said that professional development provides invaluable support for teachers and opportunities for growth. While they could move some training to the summer, Cummings explained, scheduling them during the year allows teachers the chance for immediate reflection and learning as they go.
“We’re very conscious of the impact that this has on families,” Cummings said. “It’s a matter of value to us that the time the teachers have is not only impactful for them, but is worth the impact it has on families.”
Aysseh acknowledged the importance of these days, but asked that the amount of time off, particularly half days, be re-evaluated in the long term.
“With you as a new superintendent, I would ask that it’s something we look at,” he said.
Board member Jeffrey Peterson also brought up the potential of reinstating a full weeklong February break, which was stricken from the calendar in order to allow school to end earlier.
The high temperatures of a late-running school year, explained Board Secretary Jessica Gerber, used to pose huge challenges for non-air conditioned schools. The regained days in February, added Jacobsen, are also useful for teachers in covering testing material for the spring.
Peterson said he has looked at weather data from previous years in an attempt to see if the break could be added back, given that he thinks it is something families would greatly appreciate.
He ultimately agreed with Gerber, however, that the heat issue would pose too great a challenge to implement this year. He suggested they revisit the question in the coming years when the schools are eventually all air conditioned.