Stonington school calendar a tricky problem

Stonington - The school board will discuss whether to change the date of this year's high school graduation, make seniors attend school for up to three days after they receive their diplomas or shorten the upcoming April vacation when it meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in the high school commons.

A change is needed because of several factors.

First, students need to make up the three days that school was canceled last August and September in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene. State law requires students to attend at least 180 days of school, but the school calendar here calls for 182. In addition, state law requires school systems to set their graduation dates by April 1.

Last fall, Superintendent of Schools Leanne Masterjoseph asked the board to consider altering the school calendar because students had to make up three days and winter had not yet begun.

She suggested holding classes on Columbus Day, Veterans Day or two teacher training days.

Board members decided not to take any action but agreed that if five days were needed to be made up by March, then they would consider shortening the April 9-13 vacation. There have been no snow days this winter, so just the three days need to be made up.

Masterjoseph is now bringing the issue back to the board for a decision.

One factor looming over the issue is that graduation has been set for Friday, June 8, and the parent committee planning the all-night, alcohol-free graduation party that follows the ceremony has reserved a location and put down a deposit.

One of the options Masterjoseph plans to present to the board is to move graduation from June 8 to June 15. This would force a change in the party date.

Another option is to keep graduation on June 8 and have students in grades kindergarten through 11 attend 182 days of school and seniors attend 180. This would mean that seniors who received their diplomas the previous Friday night would have to show up for class on Monday, which would be the 180th day of school. The state will not grant a waiver to the 180-day requirement.

Masterjoseph acknowledged the uncertainty over whether the graduates would show up for class that Monday and what the curriculum for that day would be.

Not showing up, though, might pose a problem for some seniors, who if they incur just one more absence would be ineligible for class credits and graduation.

Another proposal could require the seniors to attend three days of school after they graduate. Or the school board could look to eliminate three days from the April vacation. That could pose a problem for families and staff members who have planned vacations.

Masterjoseph said she is not endorsing any of the options but is presenting them to the board to consider.

But, she added, the school system also wants to be as supportive as possible of the all-night graduation party because it ensures the safety of students. She said the board also could consider other options.

"This is a very complex conversation and one the board will absolutely have to wrestle with," she said.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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