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Norwalk Seeks to Change School Calendar

Next year, Norwalk students might have to go to school on Veterans Day and the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and have a shortened February break.  Their reward, though, would be getting out of school earlier in June.

This scenario was one of three Superintendent Susan Marks presented in draft calendars for 2011-12 to the Board of Education for discussion on Tuesday night.  The school year begins on August 31 in all three options. Also, they all have 181 days of school for students and 185 days for teachers, as pre-negotiated by their contracts.

Option 1: A “status quo” calendar with the same holidays and vacations as this year.  The last day of school, barring snow days, is June 18.  (Feb. break may be used to make up snow days)

Option 2: Proposes one day off for Rosh Hashanah, not two and no day off for Veteran’s Day.  February break remains.  The last day is June 14. (Feb. break might be used to make up snow day)

Option 3: Same as Option 2, but shortens February break so that Feb 17, 20 and 21 are off.  The last day of school, barring snow days, would be June 12.

Marks assembled a calendar committee comprised of parents, teachers, administrators and union representatives.  She explained that the committee's mandate was to create a calendar that had more instruction time for students, was family friendly, employee friendly, and similar to local districts.

“No calendar is going to please everyone and we weren’t able to come to consensus as a group about the calendar,” said Marks explaining why three options were presented.

Marks noted that Norwalk is the only area school district that takes the second day of Rosh Hashanah off, aside from Stamford. She also said that in many districts, schools are open on Veteran’s Day.  “They use it as a learning day about veterans.  It is more meaningful this way.”

Marks said she supports Option 3.  "It has more dates in the early part of the school year, before the testing."  Parents also preferred Option 3, as measured by a parent survey that was posted on the district’s website.  Several board members, including Sue Haynie, Jack Chiaramonte, Jodi Bishop-Pullan, Susan Hamilton and Glenn Iannacone, also indicated a preference for Option 3.

"This calendar has maximum instruction time and has a early end date on June 12," said Hamilton.

"I like that make-up days will be at the end of the year. Making up days during February break was not optimum for learrning," said Haynie of Option 3.

School board member Steve Colarossi, however, expressed concern about possible teacher absences on the second day of Rosh Hashanah.

During public comments, teachers’ union president Bruce Mellion said in a teacher survey he conducted, 57 percent voted for Option 1, 15 percent for Option 2 and 28 percent voted for Option 3. Next year's calendar will be voted on at the next Board of Education meeting.

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