February break will be shortened for the 2013-14 school year

Easton, Redding and Region 9 students and staff members will have a shortened February vacation in 2014 instead of a full week off. This decision came during the tri-board meeting of the three school boards on Wednesday, Jan. 30.

In the past two years, the Northeast has been slammed by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, October Snowstorm Alfred in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in October 2012. Because of impassable roadways and mass power outages, Easton, Redding and Region 9 schools were forced to close for multiple days for each storm, causing students to make up the school days in June and losing days from April and February vacations.

The tri-districts’ current policy to make up days is by adding days to the end of the school year until June 21. Once makeup days reach June 21, and more days  need to be made up, the days are then taken from April vacation. When April vacation is gone and more days need to be made up, days are taken from February break.

To date, students have missed five days of school because of Superstorm Sandy and one additional day because of snow.

Redding students have to make up six days and already have one day taken from April vacation. Easton has to make up six days and has two days taken from April vacation, and Barlow has to make up six days and has no days taken from April vacation. If there are any more snow days, Barlow will have to take days from April vacation. Redding and Region 9 have 180 school days, the state legal requirement, while Easton has 181 days.

During a tri-board calendar committee meeting on Monday, Jan. 28, the committees decided that keeping a full April break takes priority over a full February break because of timing, said Daniel Underberger, Easton board member.

Students have holiday recess from Dec. 24 to Jan. 1, returning to school on Jan. 2. If February break were kept instead of April break, students would go to school for a four full months without a week break.

The committees recommended to the tri-board during the Jan. 30 meeting to make February vacation a shortened break over Presidents Weekend and to move the first day of school for the 2013-14 school year to Monday, Aug. 26, instead of the usual start day of Wednesday, Aug. 28, said Mr. Underberger.

Currently February vacation is Monday, Feb. 18, to Friday, Feb. 22, for all three districts.

The shortened February break is Friday, Feb. 14, to Tuesday, Feb. 18, with students returning to school on Wednesday.

Because of conflicts with Joel Barlow High School’s freshman orientation and teacher orientation, Region 9 decided against the earlier start date of Aug. 26, but agreed with the shortened February break.

To keep the schools and buses in sync, Easton and Redding boards voted for the Wednesday, Aug. 28, start date instead of Monday and to a shortened February break.

Each school will start on Wednesday, Aug. 28.

This decision is only for the 2013-14 school year, and the calendar committee will finalize the next two years before the next tri-board meeting in May, said Mike D’Agostino, Redding board member.

Mr. D’Agostino said that many school districts eliminate February break altogether.

Regina Bobroske, Easton board member, said the action is “too aggressive for this year” and it may be going too far.

Vida Peskay, Easton board member, said February break was started years ago when the price for oil was “sky high” and the schools needed to save money, so they started February break to turn off the heat for a week.

Hillary Nevins, a Redding resident and parent, said she understands the challenges the calendar committee faces, but the weather in the past three years has been an “anomaly.”

She suggested the boards go with the earlier start date in August and keep the week break in February.

Sharon Stemme of Easton said this was the first time she’s seen the calendar but she was “shocked” to see school starting on the Monday before Labor Day. She said by starting on that Monday instead of Wednesday, it could conflict with vacations.

Christine Calvert of Easton said she was in favor of a full February break. She said some parents have time shares and vacations booked, and taking that full week away in February would be a conflict.

Joseph Macchio, Region 9 board member, said he appreciates the input but “it’s not easy to appease everyone.”

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