School daze

A little perspective, please, on the school calendar problems in Stonington. Yes, the school board and administration made mistakes and there appears no good solution to address them. But in the scheme of educational challenges and priorities, a calendar blunder rates low.

This problem results from the best of intentions. Sensitive to the hardship created by the past practice of pushing back high school graduation dates when inclement weather caused school cancellations, the school board opted for a fixed graduation date, June 8. A moving graduation date had made it difficult for organizers to schedule associated events, such as the supervised all-night graduation party, meant to keep graduates safe. Moving the graduation also made it tough for families traveling from out of state.

But Superintendent Leanne Masterjoseph failed to build in a 185-day calendar, which state regulations require of school systems with specific graduation dates, providing a five-day cushion to meet the 180-day requirement. Stonington has a 182-day calendar.

Problems surfaced immediately when Tropical Storm Irene caused three cancellation days in August. The board missed an opportunity to address the dilemma immediately when it rejected the superintendent's recommendation to hold classes on Columbus Day, Veterans Day and two teacher training days. It pointed instead to the possibility of making up days during April vacation, its fall-back position when the board adopted the calendar.

By the time it finally opted for that solution earlier this month - voting to cancel the first three days of the April 9-13 vacation - many families and teachers had made vacation plans. Between the absence of teachers and students on those three days, there would not be much learning going on.

Further complicating matters are potential contractual penalties teachers with vacation plans could face for missing those days. The board meets with union representatives tonight.

The better choice among poor options, we feel, is restoring the April vacation days and pushing back the graduation date. This will cause problems, but any solution at this point will. Better that than having three pseudo school days that make a mockery of the requirement for a minimal number of instructional days.

The board members and superintendent should then write 100 times on the blackboard to never, ever get in this situation again.

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