GROTON -- The Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee worked on identifying 2014 holidays for the school calendar and decided to make changes later if needed.

At issue was adding a number of Jewish holy days, including Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover.

The matter was raised by resident Rosa Shan, who appeared before the School Committee Wednesday night.

Shan asked that the three holy days be at least recognized on the school calendar as it was difficult for Jewish families to observe those that might begin at sundown, when children have homework.

Shan said she was not asking that the days be taken off, only recognized.

Member James Frey moved that the three holy days be recognized on the calendar.

Questions were raised on what would be done for those days, which are observed over several days, and whether the district should note their start the night before the holy day.

Although having a day off was not being requested, as they were for Good Friday/Easter and Christmas, it was suggested that when the days were noted on the calendar, that they be designated "no homework" days.

Member Leslie Lathrop said the no-homework rule should apply to all students and not just students who are Jewish, so that no one would be singled out.

When asked what percentage of the student body were Jewish, Lathrop said she did not know.


After it was suggested that the district check with other schools to see how they handled the subject, member John Giger said he had conducted some research and found that solutions other schools used included eliminating all religious holidays to listing all of them.

For questioning the policy complications raised by the addition of the Jewish holy days, Giger said he has been accused of being "pro-Christian."

Frey altered his motion, from one recognizing the Jewish holidays, to one that identified them without any responsibilities on the part of the district.

In the meantime, a possible change in district policy regarding homework and when recognition of the days should begin was to be studied further.

Also Wednesday, members were briefed by math specialist Susan Wynn on how the district is working toward aligning its mathematics curriculum with the federal government's Common Core standards.

According to Wynn, the Common Core standards will "up the ante" for students who will be expected to learn principles of mathematics at earlier grade levels than before.

Calling 2013 a transition year, Wynn said alignment will concentrate on students in the district's pre-K through Grade 8, with a special focus on integrating technology with classroom instruction.

Wynn described such efforts as "dynamic" and "exciting" and that for students used to iPads, smartphones and tablets, working on computers and Smartboards was like "playing a video game;" in others words, such instruments made learning more fun.

The result, said Wynn, was to give students more of a "conceptual understanding" of a subject rather than ply them with data making it easier for them to adapt to other classroom settings no matter where they end up.

Wynn said technology can only enhance instruction, not replace it.

"This model," concluded Wynn, "is the best of both worlds."

Wynn told the committee that the district was required to complete the transition to the Common Core standards by 2014.

The School Committee also heard from:

* Assistant principal Ann Russo, who was working on a wellness program that was also mandated by the state. Covering nutrition, physical fitness, safety and well-being, the state requires that the district establish workable policies in those areas for the benefit of students. A committee was formed and has already surveyed administrators and heads of town services in an attempt to identify areas of "strength and needs" in the community. In the future, the committee expects to reach out to parents, the School Committee, and students for help in moving the agenda forward.

* Building and Grounds Director Steve Byrne on what savings the district has made through energy conservation. Among the instances sited by Byrne include the conversion from oil to gas heat at the Prescott School building with a savings of $21,000; conversion from oil to gas at the Swallow Union School for a savings of $31,000; continued installation of hand dryers is expected to save on the cost of paper towels; the Middle School North building has won a free upgrade to its lighting system which is expected to cut energy use there by 12 percent; a program to cut down use of electricity during the summer months yielded a check for $5,800 from the Groton Electric Light Department.