…..prompt school calendar


By Mary E. Arata

HARVARD — Yes, your children have been out of school a lot this winter.

Between snowstorm cancellations and last week’s closures to clear school roofs, the ConnectEd calls have been piling up like the ice dams and snow drifts atop the Hildreth Elementary and Bromfield schools.

As of Wednesday, school has been closed six days this winter at Hildreth Elementary School, and seven days at the Bromfield School. That has caused an alteration to the Spring 2011 school calendar. School will now remain in session deeper into June.

The last day of school had been tentatively set for Thursday, June 16. But due to the closures the last day of school at Hildreth Elementary School will be Friday, June 24, and the last day of school for the Bromfield Middle/High School will be Monday, June 27.

The revised final school days will stick as long as the rest of February remains storm free. “If we get through vacation week, we’re golden,” said Harvard School superintendent Thomas Jefferson to the School Committee Monday night. “It’s not inconceivable,” but there’s typically no school cancellations in March, Jefferson said.

Since no one’s particularly a fan of showing up to school on Monday, June 27, for a one-day school week, the committee pondered creative ways around the situation.

“Maybe have a picnic with no food, no music or fun and no one shows up,” joked committee member Kirsten Wright.

“I’m very curious as to how this appears in the newspapers,” forecast Chairman Keith Cheveralls.

“I have to sign off to the commissioner that we’ve had 180 days. I don’t have to sign off that they’re all great days. We can have limited objectives on the last day,” said Jefferson.

Or there could be Saturday make-up classes, suggested committee member Piali De. “I think we serve the kids that way but I know it’s an unpopular position.”

“I don’t think anyone would come,” said committee member Virginia Justicz. Jefferson agreed.

Wright wondered what impact the school closures would have on Bromfield students in relation to the statewide MCAS testing. “Instruction is so important and we’re losing seven days.”

Jefferson answered that by the time the students are in eighth grade, “You’ve had the kids in your school system for nine years. Is three days going to make a difference? At the end of the day, we’ve had these kids since they were 5 years old.”

As to Saturday make-up classes, Wright said, “If the kids were there, I’d be there” but she admitted “I don’t think you’d have a really good turnout.”

“I’m not hearing a lot of enthusiasm,” said Cheveralls, though he agreed with De. “Educational time is always a priority.”

The committee agreed to revisit the idea of Saturday make-up days if there’s another school closure during the remainder of this school year.

The school

year to come

Looking ahead to the coming year, the tentative last day of school for the 2011/2012 school year will be June 12, 2012, subject to negotiation with the teachers union. With five snow days, the year could ramble on as long as June 19, 2012.

In the coming school year, Christmas falls on Sunday, Dec. 25, 2011. Therefore there’ll be no need for the incoming superintendent to have to decide whether or not to hold school on Dec. 24.

Under a new Harvard School Committee policy enacted last fall regarding religious holidays, the superintendent will close school on holidays based on projections of whether or not there would be adequate numbers of students and staff attending to justify opening, based on historical data.

“I will follow with interest how that plays out,” said Jefferson. By Christmas, Jefferson will be half way into his first year as Lynnfield’s new school superintendent.

Yom Kippur falls on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011, so that, too, will not be a trigger point this fall. But to be determined is how to handle Rosh Hashanah, which occurs Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011, at sunset, as well as Good Friday, which will occur early in the next school year — April 6, 2012.

Committee Chairman Keith Cheveralls suggested the 2011/2012 school calendar include notations of the dates of the various religious holidays, “not to celebrate but to raise awareness in the schools” and so “faculty can make reasonable and appropriate accommodations” for students who may not attend those days.

“I think it’s a good time for a design makeover,” agreed Jefferson of the simple calendar grid traditionally employed.

Jefferson’s proposed 2011/2012 school calendar also sticks to separate February and April weeklong vacations (tentatively set for Feb. 20 through Feb. 24, 2012 and April 16 through April 20, 2012, respectively).

Jefferson suggested that Harvard reject the notion of doing away with the separate February and April vacation weeks in favor of one weeklong vacation in March. “Unless the whole state did that, it would create a very uncomfortable situation for our teachers,” Jefferson said.