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The Region 4 School District boards of education, in a joint meeting last week, approved changes in two school calendars-changes in this year's calendar necessitated by the five school days lost to Superstorm Sandy, and changes in the 2013-2014 calendar prompted by community comments seeking fewer half days and more five-day weeks.
The changes to the present year's calendar were inevitable. Sandy closed schools for five days earlier this year and the administration needed to find those lost days within the calendar. State statute requires that students spend 180 days each year in school and teachers spend 185 days.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Ruth Levy told the joint boards that their calendar committee recommended changing Friday, Jan. 18 from a day off for students to a half day. Bringing students in for a half day would meet the state requirement to make up one day lost to the storm.
Jan. 18 had originally been scheduled as a professional development day for teachers only. It will now be a half day for professional development.
"This was possible because our teachers were amenable to this change," Levy said.
The calendar had five snow days built in to its calendar, she said. Sandy used them all. The Jan. 18 change gives the district back one snow day. Should the district need more make-up days because of school closings during the winter months, the days will be taken from the April vacation.
Big Changes in 2013-2014
It is the newly revised 2013-2014 school calendar that brings the major changes, from a sharply reduced February vacation to an early closing of the school year on June 11.
"You have already voted on a 2013-2014 calendar, but we are asking for a new vote on a revised calendar," Levy told the boards. "We have developed and are recommending a one-year calendar rather than the two-year calendars, as was done previously. We listened to comments from the community and have streamlined the calendar."
There are fewer half days within the revised calendar and more five-day weeks for students, she said. It includes the minimum 900 hours, or 180 days, of instruction for students; professional development days, some of which are now mandated for instruction in bullying and other topics; the required federal and state holidays; the holidays negotiated within the district's contracts with its seven bargaining units; and five snow days.
"We looked at a number of other calendars. We looked at the LEARN calendar. We considered the requests we heard from the community for consistency," Levy explained.
Among the changes:
• Columbus Day will be a day off for students but a professional development day for teachers.
• Schools will be open on Veterans Day with special programs designed in part with the participation of veterans groups. In past years, schools have been closed on Veterans Day.
• Perhaps the most notable change is the reduction of the February vacation from one week to two days, Feb. 17, which is President's Day, and Feb. 18. Friday, Feb. 14 will be a half day for students and a half day for professional development.
• Half days in the elementary schools have been reduced from three to two. These days are traditionally parent conference days; with declining enrollments in the elementary schools, "We believe we can accomplish all the conferences in two days," Levy said.
• Under this revision, the school year would end June 11, 2014, depending on the number of school closings, if any, due to weather.
The revised calendars are now available on the district's website, www.reg4.k12.ct.us.