is no more, at least for the 2012-2013 school year. But it did not go down without a fight.
After a narrow 5-3 vote ( chair Pamela Iacono abstained), the board on Tuesday moved to move the Jan. 18 professional development day to Friday, Feb. 15 and added Feb. 19, 20,21, and 22 as school days.
President’s Day weekend, normally the start of February vacation, will now be a four-day weekend, beginning Friday, Feb. 15; students will return on Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Superintendent of Schools David Title shared with the board the Norwalk, Monroe, Ridgefield, and Shelton schools have also done away with February vacation.
Board members Jessica Geber, Paul Fattibene, Sue Brand, Tim Kery, and John Convertito voted to eliminate the vacation days in favor of ending school early in June, a motion put forth by Convertito. Perry Liu, Jennifer Maxon Kennelly, and Philip Dwyer voted to keep February break in the calendar.
The 2012-2013 school year will now end on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 -- weather pending. With the loss of four February break days, there are now seven snow days built into the calendar. The calendar was approved; April break will remain in the third week of April, rather than being moved up to March.
A lively discussion preceded the vote. Here’s what the board and members of the public had to say on the February break matter:
In Favor of Cutting February Break
- Sue Brand, board member: “My concern with having school at the end of the year is that not all our schools have air conditioning…the kids get terribly hot…this is not a devastating change. I’d like to try it for a year.” Brand added that she spoke to members of the Board of Health, who said that no studies have substantiated the notion that February break helps keep winter illnesses like the flu from spreading.
- Christine Vitale, Board of Education representative: Vitale said the Dwight Elementary School PTA executive board voted in favor of eliminating February break prior to the Board of Education’s meeting. “No one wants their kids in school far into June,” she said, and “no one wants April break taken away due to snow days.”
- Marc Patten, representative for District 7: “Change is good,” he said, adding that students come back from school in January only to lose days to snow and then have another vacation.
- Doreen Herron: “All the schools have heat…not all the schools have air conditioning.”
- Julie Gottlieb: Gottlieb said that, as a working parent, she always dreaded February break. “It was a completely hellacious time when you would have to figure out where to place your kid during February break,” she said
Opposed to Cutting February Break
- Perry Liu, board member: “I think the calendar is perfect just the way it is. February break is a good vacation time. It’s good for people who are sick. If you take it away, there will still be absences.”
- Jay Wolk: Wolk said he spoke to several custodians at the schools, who told him they look forward to February break as a time to clean the schools. It also gives time for sick students to get better, he said.
- Anne Pasco, President of the Fairfield Education Association: Pasco said she’s observed the school calendar and various changes over the past four decades. “I’ve seen a March break -- it was a disaster.” Pasco said that families that want to go away in February will still go away and take their children out of school, and that week in February is “always the week we have a snow day; the week the flu has always struck…When a community is used to doing something and you change it, they continue to do that something.”
- Sue Dow, former Board of Education member: Dow argued that students -- especially high school student bogged down by AP classes and numerous extracurricular activities -- are burnt out by February and need the break. The teachers are burnt out as well, she added.
What’s your take on the board’s vote?