Days after the state Legislature delayed the implementation of a regional uniform calendar until the 2016-17 school year, the New Canaan Board of Education jumped to approve a 2015-16 one for the district.
Under the calendar, school will start Aug. 27, 2015, and end June 15, 2016. As usual, there would be two vacations besides the holiday break -- in February and April.
The board unanimously approved the calendar Monday night and decided to discuss the 2016-17 one at a future meeting. For that year, districts are required to implement a regional uniform calendar unless an existing employee contract makes such implementation impossible.
The General Assembly's Education Committee convened the Uniform Regional School Calendar Task Force last year with the goal to find savings, especially in areas such as transportation and teacher training.
Among the guidelines submitted by the task force in January are at least 180 days of school, a uniform start date, uniform days for professional development and in-service training for certified employees and not more than three uniform school vacation periods during each school year. Of those, not more than two shall be a one-week school vacation period and one shall be during the summer.
New Canaan is a member of the Cooperative Educational Services region, which is roughly all of lower Fairfield County.
For 2015-16, the region recommends a start date of Sept. 2, just two days off in February and 180 instructional days. Given that the board's approved calendar for that year has a start date of Aug. 27, a weeklong vacation in February and 182 school days, the board expects to have significant discussions when it comes time to align both calendars for 2016-17 school year.
Board members have said the uniform regional calendar lacks flexibility and they are not convinced of its benefits.
The bill to delay the implementation of the calendar until 2016-17 was approved by the Legislature this month and requires the governor's signature.
Another issue discussed Monday was whether the South Elementary School window project, which is slated to take place during the summers of 2014 and 2015, would affect the proposed Aug. 27 start date. Member Alison Bedula asked the board to consider moving the beginning of classes to Sept. 3 to allow more time in case there's a delay in the project.
"If the possibility even exists that we may have to push the start date back," she said, "that's something that has to go hand in hand with this calendar."
The $2.6 million project aims to repair some windows and replace others, replace a failing glass block system and repair the building expansion joint.
The job has been divided into two phases. The first includes removal of the glass block from the upper level of the school as well as abatement of the upper level. Then the area will be "sealed up" until phase two, which includes more abatement and the replacement of the windows and starts next year, according to Nancy Harris, the district's interim director of finance and operations.
Board member Gene Goodman disagreed with Bedula, saying one school project should not define the calendar for the district.
"It's not clear that if South School needs more time, you (should) say to the whole system `we're starting on Sept. 3,' " Goodman said.
Several other board members agreed it was unnecessary to come up with a contingency plan without knowing the project's 2015 timeline. Member Penny Rashin said the calendar should be approved with the typical late August start date, which could be adjusted if a problem arises.
"Right now we have a good schedule," Rashin said. "Until we know what the issue is, we're just hypothesizing."
Board of Education Chairman Hazel Hobbs noted that the discussion on the project timeline shows how a uniform regional calendar would be a hurdle for the district. New Canaan's distinct school calendar, she said, allows the board "to have flexibility to make these decisions."
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