Stonington schools shorten April vacation

Students, parents and even teachers may have to cancel their April vacation plans as the Stonington Board of Education voted last week to eliminate three days of the upcoming spring break.

The board made the decision to hold classes on April 11, 12 and 13 to make up for the three days lost from Tropical Storm Irene last August and September. This, however, will ensure that the high school graduation ceremony will be held as planned on Friday night, June 8.

The board made the decision after about 50 high school seniors and parents planning their all-night alcohol-free graduation party urged them not to move the graduation date to June 15 as a way to ensure students would complete the required number of days.

Parent Tony Gharios, who is the co-chairman of the party planning committee, told the board that not only would it be difficult to find a new location for the party but the committee would lose its $3,000 deposit.

His son Elias Gharios, the senior class president, told the board that relatives from as far away as California had already made travel plans to be here on June 8.

He added that parents and relatives may now find it hard to get time off from work that day.

He urged the board to not only keep the relatives in mind but more importantly the 128 members of the graduating class.

Parent Jonathan Towne, who is in the Coast Guard, told the board he is scheduled to be traveling for his job on June 15 and there is a possibility he might not be able to get back home in time for his daughter's graduation.

Senior Chris Blanchard told the board that his brother, a Army sergeant who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan, might not be able to get home for his graduation if the board changed the date now.

Senior Reka Keller, the student representative to the school board, said she and her classmates would rather lose some of their April vacation than see graduation moved.

The board had also considered having seniors attend class for three days the week after they graduate. But high school Principal Stephen Murphy opposed having them in a "holding tank" because it would create havoc with graduation practice, exams and regular classroom instruction for other students. He said if school could not end on June 8 then he would rather see graduation moved to June 15.

After listening to the speakers, who were cheered by the audience in the high school commons, board Chairwoman Gail MacDonald reminded members that when they put off a decision on the issue last fall, they had agreed they would not change the date of graduation and if they needed to make up days, they would take them from the April vacation.

The board then voted unanimously to keep graduation on June 8 and decrease the length of the April vacation.

"I'm so happy. Words can't describe it," said a relieved Gharios as he accepted his classmates' congratulations after the decision. "I was very worried."

The change means that school will be in session for the state-mandated minimum of 180 days and all students will begin their summer vacation on June 8. Students were originally slated to attend school for 182 days.

MacDonald said that in light of the problem, the board will re-examine its 2012-13 school calendar to prevent a repeat.



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