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Fairfield School Year Could Start Earlier in 2013

The Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the school calendar at its Dec. 11 meeting. A few options for change are on the table.

The Fairfield Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the 2013-2014 school calendar during its Dec. 11 meeting -- several options for change were discussed at the Nov. 27 meeting.

Last year, the ultimate decision to eliminate February vacation from the current school year and the proposal to hold class on Veterans Day drew public attention and criticism.

The option to hold class on Veterans Day will be revisited and discussed at the board's December meeting at the request of member Jennifer Maxon Kennelly.

Other possible changes to the calendar include starting the school year a few days earlier and holding class on non-obligated holidays like President's Day.

In the draft of the 2013-2014 school year calendar, the first day of school is Thursday, Aug. 29 and the last day -- weather-pending -- is scheduled for Wednesday, June 11. The draft also includes a four-day weekend mid-February instead of February break.

Because February vacation is not included in the proposed 2013-2014 calendar, there are a total of seven makeup days built into the end of the year.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Title suggested that the school year could also start earlier to ensure students are not kept in school until the end of June.

If the school year were to start on Monday, Aug. 26 or Tuesday, Aug. 27, teachers would have to come in the week before for professional development days.

Both Kennelly and John Convertito opposed the idea. Kennelly said someone needs to advocate for the teachers, whose summer vacations would end much sooner than usual.

Convertito said the idea to start school early is "counterintuitive" to the board's decision last year to cut February break.

"The whole point of taking February break was to keep kids out of the hot classrooms [in June]," he said, as temperatures will still be hot in late August.

Member Sue Brand said the board should also consider holding class on non-obligated holidays like President's Day.

The board is scheduled to take up the conversation again on Tuesday.

Fairfield Parent December 07, 2012 at 12:28 PM
Momof3 - I know the last two years have brought us some wild weather. However, I do recall bad winter storms in the early 90s and a few in the early 2000s. The kids still did well those years. My point is that there is TOO much emphasis on what days the kids are attending versus the QUALITY. Newintown - if your child needs extra help, presumable because he/she is not special needs, than you should be questioning the quality too. Major religious holidays need to stay in place. The Jewish Holy Days in September are 2 days of about 15 that the kids would observe if they went to Jewish day school for instance. The Jewish New Year is typically observed over 2.5 days/nights while the BOE provides 1 day. This year my high school student (who is an A student) was afraid to go to services for what she might miss her in her accelerated classes. Her teacher opted on that 2nd holy day started teaching BioChem. So while i hear rumblings about the days off in September, I would say to you how would you feel if your family couldn't celebrate Christmas or Easter together? I don't think as a town we want to have religious intolerance. We need common sense breaks so families can celebrate religion, have quality time and visit faraway loved ones. Not everyone can travel Winter Break or Summer. Last high school students need time/days to be able to visit colleges. The new BOE policy removes credits if students have college interviews and miss school, & summer is not the time to see colleges.
Fairfield Parent December 07, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Also to add, the quality of our schools is good, not amazing. It is better than the south - but I have seen it dipping for a long time. I also don't think having a winter break of 5 days is going to let kids' minds forget what they learn the past 6 weeks. My question to all of you - how do private schools do it? Many start after Labor Day - have a 2 week March break, and finish on time in early June. And yes, we looked into this option but didn't want to extend our children's day with commuting time right now. Perhaps because the curriculum is rigorous and not water down, and the teachers keep the pace of the class moving on target without silly distractions. When we have a bad weather year, the first thing the principals should do in middle school for example is eliminate "fun days" of Arts in Action or a Basketball spirit game during the middle of the day of school. These days are really nice "extras,"but smart educators would get the work done and forgo these "fill" days so the kids can finish school in mid June as calendar'd. Instead all of these padded June extra days are thrown in so Principals and staff have no incentive to get the task of teaching done within a tightened schedule due to inclement weather and eliminate the fluff days.
JunieB December 07, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Private schools "do it" by having fewer days. GFA has 165 days in their calendar this year; they don't need to have 180 because they are not answering to the state, which requires public schools to have at least 180 days. Classes average 14-16 students Tuition averages $34,000. Fairfield Parent I am not so sure why you are getting so worked up about April break. Unless we get more than 5 snow days this winter there will be a full April break this year. If you looked at the proposed calendar for next year you would see that April break is on there as well.
momof3 December 07, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Fairfield Parent--during one of those bad winters in early 2000s--kids lost half of April Break. Could argue that those "fluff days" build school spirit, and enable kids to be more socially engaged during the school day. Yes, primary focus should be academics but nothing wrong with having some pure, social fun in there also. Gives kids a much needed, in school break, as well. I think for this discussion, the question really is. How do you feel about kids starting 1-3 days earlier in August? If we go through winter, and don't have any snow days, BOE might have option to add days on to Memorial Day, Easter weekend, rather than at the end of the year (I know there was some concern about ending too early in June.) Or BOE can adopt a calendar that has Feb and April break and if Mother Nature throws yet another curve ball, school will be extended, and April break will be gone--because if the BOE hadn't shortened Feb break for this year--we would have already been going later in June and half of April break would be gone.
Marnie Kruse December 07, 2012 at 02:03 PM
This is the second time I have seen Memorial Day in the mix as a possible school day, though I know the chances of that occuring are extremely slim. That being said, how can that day even be discussed? Are there ANY schools in the country that have school on Memorial Day??
Fairfield Parent December 07, 2012 at 02:24 PM
For my family - April is the ONLY time we can visit grandparents. Our careers do not permit us to travel in the summer or Winter December break. I am heart broken that my family can not see our 80 something grandparents. When your family is nearby than I guess April is no big deal. In addition, the kids NEED time to visit colleges in the spring...hence February break. Momof3 -we are not going to see eye to eye. I totally agree in spirit days, but if we need to sacrifice - than the spirit days should come before folks here talk about taking away key breaks, religious days, Memorial day, etc. I find June to be babysitting - I remember EACH year - through middle school the kids are told to come to school with games/books...OK so the state proves they were in school 180 days - but what are we teaching. I also stick by the points that everyone worries about excellence in this town and test scores - when the kids go straight through cold cold winters here without a decent break - let's see how they excel academically without some downtime...let's see what the ratio of sick days increases to. And yes, one year in the early 2000s they reduced April break - and NOTHING was taught that week. We kept our travel plans to visit grandparents as our kids were young. The teachers said no one showed up school. Maybe it is the state that needs to sort out this 180 day rule that seems out of touch. And if April Break and Feb Break can be removed than I argue for December break being reduced.
momof3 December 07, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Fairfield Parent--we are not in disagreement!!!! The BOE can't make the school year less than 180 days. So what are they suppose to do when we lose over a week of school due to inclement weather?! The time needs, by law, to be made up. Do they make school year longer? Do they eliminate breaks? They need to find the days somewhere. They are trying to PRESERVE breaks by looking at more creative ways to add a buffer should Mother Nature throw us a whammy. And as far as nothing being done when school is in session during April, that may be somewhat true in elementary school, but in high school, I'm willing to bet, with APs coming in May, teachers are teaching. Fairfield Parent--what is your solution? How do you think the BOE should have kids in school for 180 days, and still ensure families get a break should Mother Nature throw us yet another curve ball? I haven't heard a solution. This discussion is about the school calendar, not the caliber of what is being taught.
Fairfield Parent December 07, 2012 at 02:59 PM
I have no issue with kids going to school in June. It is the same as if they are going in late August in terms of heat. I like the calendar the town has had for 20+ years until someone decided to eliminate Feb. break. If we need to start 2 days sooner, OK with that too. Someone how NY and NJ start after Labor Day and the world doesn't fall apart - and these kids get breaks. So they go through June. If we start than let's start the Monday of the week leading into Labor Day. I always felt it was a bad policy to start the Thursday before Labor Day...again defining yet another time families have to forgo family time (who misses the 1st & 2nd day of school!). We had an important family wedding 7 states away. I am only stressing the BOE needs to considers that families need family time - and not every family can say OK - I will travel during Christmas. My other point if we are thinking outside the box - why not make Christmas Eve a 1/2 day and Christmas a day off and ditto New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. Kids can attend school between those two holidays - that might add 4 days back to the calendar.
Fairfield Parent December 07, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I meant to add - we had a family wedding Labor Day weekend we had to miss - and it is rare to see everyone together in any family. We had to sacrifice the family wedding because we would have needed to travel the Friday before Labor Day - and I would never take my kids out of school the 2nd day of school. I wish everyone a nice day - I need to get back to other projects.
Ajack December 07, 2012 at 06:47 PM
Ever thought of taking the entire Fairfield town school system private? Wouldn't have to abide by all of those absolutely inane State and Federal mandates along with the influence of the teachers unions and maybe we could get back to educating our kids.
Anonymous December 07, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Question: If the year lasts longer for whatever reason and then you open schools up earlier how will the custodians be able to get the schools ready in time? Keep in mind now that ALL the school buildings are used by either the Fairfield Rec department's summer camp programs, Summer School program, Election activity (past 2 years had summer primaries ect.). These programs start July 1st and run till mid August. 2-3 work hours a day during the summer is dedicated to cleaning up after them as opposed to Summer cleaning. It's usually a mad dash the last 2 weeks as it is now just to get the buildings ready. I am not against the summer camps at all, I was a kid once too. The High Schools have a constant flow of people and activities during the summer resulting in work having to be done twice at times. I am also a Veteran and while in a perfect world all the kids would go out to a parade or visit a Vet but the sad fact is most kids, including mine, just "hang out". I personally do not find it disrespectful to have school that day AS LONG AS THE MAJORITY OF THE DAY IS FOCUSED ON VETERAN'S AND THIER SACRIFICE! President's Day the same thing. Instead of trying to be better than everyone and going to school 182 days when the State only requires 180 is foolish too. Whoever said all they do is have parties and watch movies on these last 2 days is spot on! So there would be 4 days saved right there. Well that's just my 2 cents. Have a GREAT weekend Fairfield!!!
new to town December 07, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Brian We don't have the extra time or money for our child's additional learning program. We set a budget and skip trips, drive older cars etc. to see he gets what he needs. Where we lived before we could afford private school. Here private school is completely out for us given our income. But I can tell you I saw from the beginning the public school (yes it is good and the parents in the school are great with support, etc) was not providing the education we were getting where we lived before. I think there is a bit of denial here about what is being provided for children in the public school system. Every one likes to think they pay these large tax rates for good schools and moving here after living in other areas of the US I can tell you I see no difference in what is provided in the school. I think the difference is that you have greater than average (for the rest of the US) parent involvement, and a larger percentage of parents with advanced education. As far as the curriculum is concerned and what is expected of the student - we are not impressed thus the extra learning program for our child.
new to town December 08, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Fairfield Paren - Our child does not need extra help. We felt the school was not challenging him so we enrolled in the extra math and reading program. He currently is two at 2 grade levels above in all areas (his public school teachers assessment not ours). It wasn't that he needed extra help it is as you pointed out that the curriculum in the public schools is lacking. He was bored in school and it's not that he is a mathmatical genius etc it's just as you said the curriculum is watered down. I think there is this attitude that things are better here and the kids are going to suffer for it. The high school test scores are proof. When we were looking at where we could afford to live we moved here knowing that based on our research (test scores etc) we would need to provide extra learning opportunities for our children so they could learn at level in keeping with their abilities.
Abraham Gold December 09, 2012 at 01:43 AM
Yes...A better idea. Because this idea is inconvenient for Nicki. And as you know, the entire school system revolves around Nicki. My god, you sound like a spoiled brat. Grow up.
Tim Wagner December 09, 2012 at 04:30 AM
I agree, we should go to school on Christmas and good Friday. One or two days we can pick up for the students.
Fairfield Old Timer December 09, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Fairfield Parent sounds like a spoiled brat too: "Due to our careers - the ONLY break we can take is in April....not everyone has a typical career." Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
LMT December 11, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Please remember that that last year when February vacation was eliminated, the reasoning was to not teach during the hot days in June. Returning to school earlier in August is a contradiction of that rationale. Most of the classrooms in the schools are not air conditioned. Students and teachers have had to try to function in rooms where temperatures reach into the 90's at times. This is unhealthy for all involved.
Fairfield Parent December 11, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Please note that if we send the kids to school on Federal holiday we lose federal funding!
Fairfield Parent December 11, 2012 at 07:05 PM
I think I said the last few days were movies/parties...so essentially the schedule of education is not balance correctly. We have too many extra days for some reason for the kids to be suddenly babysat the end of June. As just noted, any Federal holidays would not work as the town would lose it's Federal funding - plus we do need a few breaks in the calendar - let's say the kids/teachers all need mental health days at the very least. For 20+ years the school system has worked. I have no idea why the BOE is panicking suddenly. NY and NJ as far as I know are not changing their calendars due to a snow blizzard system 2 years ago Hurricanes the past 2 years. Weather is weather - we can't forecast it. Let it go folks. We have a good calendar already!
tfd December 11, 2012 at 08:20 PM
I keep reading that the last couple of days of school the kids are watching movies or having parties. I think the kids would be watching movies or having parties if they last day of school was in June, July, May or even April. I think it is because it is the last two days of school. There are certain days, where the kids are not going to learn anything: The last day before summer vacation or the last day before Christmas. I think that is the nature of the day not an indictment on the education system.
R. Ludlowe December 11, 2012 at 10:02 PM
good point, tfd. At a certain point you need to take responsibility and do what's right for you and your family. Miss a family reunion/wedding because you want your kids to go to the second day of school? Seems like an odd priority to me, but its your call. Go away in April and miss a few days of school, should they be put back on the calendar? Its your call as a parent. I'm not arguing for truancy, but I am arguing that the same common sense that most parents use for their every day lives should be applied here as well.
R. Ludlowe December 11, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Veteran's Day Compromise: Word War I ended on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. That's why Veteran's day is on November 11. When November 11 is on a week day, then it could be a school holiday. When it falls on a weekend (as it did this year) then we should all show what appreciation we can on THAT day, and not take another day out of the work/school week as well. Personally, I think we should have school on that day so that there can be a guarantee of some appropriate reminders and dedications to our nation's military. Since it is rarely a professional holiday, I can tell you that most families do not observe the day by attending veterans functions, etc. Sad, but its the way it is. If this comes back to a vote for the BOE, I hope that we can have a mature conversation about it and not bully one side or the other with accusations of non-patriotism, etc. Its not about that, and I can guarantee that no enlisted man ever said "I'm fighting so that the kids can have 11/11 off from school."
Tim Wagner December 12, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Since we have school on Columbus day, we have already lost federal funding, so I don't think we can lose funding twice.
Fairfield Parent December 12, 2012 at 03:41 AM
R. Ludlowe - everyone knows you can't miss the first few days of school. The teachers lay down parameters/rules and give their overview of the school program. I think the first few days of the year are critical and set the tone of the year - plus the kids quickly size up who is who in terms of friendships.
Dawn K December 12, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Anyone know the results of the meeting last night?
R. Ludlowe December 12, 2012 at 11:43 AM
really? Fairfield Parent, I if you replace "school" with the word "prison" in your first sentence then you might have a point. Otherwise, I dont think you have a good idea of what really happens during the first couple days of school. Next you are going to say that the students should try to beat someone up or shiv them within the first week to show they are tough enough to make it. Sorry, I meant "inmates." "...sizing up who is who?" really?
momof3 December 12, 2012 at 11:54 AM
No changes to calendar as proposed. Veteran's Day still a holiday. 4 day weekend in Feb.
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) December 12, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Story coming right up, Dawn.
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) December 12, 2012 at 01:06 PM
Here's how the board voted last night on the 2013-2014 calendar: http://fairfield.patch.com/articles/fairfield-schools-to-remain-closed-on-veterans-day
LMT December 14, 2012 at 07:29 PM
At the high school level and possibly the middle school level students are taking final exams during the last 4 days of school.

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