The New Canaan Board of Education debated a proposed 2013-14 school calendar that would eliminate the weeklong February break, eliminate Columbus Day as a holiday, and lengthen summer vacation at Monday night's meeting.
District Superintendent Mary Kolek proposed the new calendar in an effort to provide more time in the summer for facility maintenance and to add a cushion day in case of weather closures.
Depending on the proposed budget outcome, the district hopes to complete several projects over the next two summer breaks, including renovating the window caulking and repaving the parking lot at South Elementary School.
Kolek noted that calendar changes would have to exist within the framework of the state-mandated 180 school days, which cannot extend beyond the third week of June. Kolek said New Canaan prefers to offer a 182-day school year, which the proposed calendar reflects.
Board member Jim Kucharczyk opposed reducing the February break from a full week to two days because he thought it would interrupt families' vacations.
"People in this town love their ski vacations," he said, suggesting that the week in April be shortened instead.
Board Chairman Alison Bedula disagreed, saying that between the winter break, Martin Luther King Day, and the snow days that tend to accumulate in January and February, the weeklong February vacation might be overkill.
"Even my son said, `Vacation again?!' " she said at the meeting.
Maintaining the continuity of school weeks by eliminating Columbus Day as a day off and by making Election Day a half day rather than a day off appealed to board member Hazel Hobbs.
"You hear people say, `There's a holiday here and then another holiday coming up,' and then you add weather events," she said of the calendar. "It's nice to have instructional time grouped together."
Using Columbus Day as a school day is a good idea because its origin could provide teachers an angle for their lessons, as they currently do with Veterans Day, added board member Amy Rochlin.
"I think it's really important for people to know that Veterans Day is a very educationally rich day," she said. "What they've gotten out of that day is enormous, so I can only imagine what we could do with Columbus Day," she said.
Board member Scott Gress did not support a longer summer vacation, saying that he much prefers spending time with his children in small doses during the school breaks as opposed to the long summer vacation.
"I don't know why we're adding summer days. By the end of summer I'm ready to send my kids back, I've had enough time with them," he quipped.
The board hopes to get feedback from the public and will continue discussion of the proposed alternate schedule.
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