TOWNSEND — It took several votes before the school committee agreed on a calendar for the 2015/2016 school year.
After much debate, and two tied votes, the North Middlesex Regional School District School Committee voted for a calendar that sets the opening day for students as Aug. 31. If no snow days are used, school will get out on June 14, 2016.
The teachers’ association recommended a start date of Aug. 26, said Assistant Superintendent Nancy Milligan during the April 27 meeting.
The district traditionally starts school the week before Labor Day, said committee member Randee Rusch speaking against the earlier start date. Beginning Aug. 26 means there would be two partial weeks before the holiday.
“It seems to make the summer shorter,” said committee member Jonna Clermont.
“We’re talking about starting a day earlier than the current school year,” said member Robert Templeton. If the teachers and administration support the early start, he said he was fine with that.
Part of the conversation with the teachers involved the series of partial weeks that would begin the school year, Milligan said. The shorter weeks allow the teachers to set ground rules before the full weeks of learning arrive.
Rusch asked if there would be any issues with students not attending school if such an early start date is set.
“I’m new to the district, I wouldn’t have that historical data,” said Milligan.
The original plan included long weekends early in the year to try and balance the last few weeks of summers and allow families to get extra weekends in, Milligan said.
The proposed schedule is too choppy, Clermont said, with too many short weeks.
Member Will Hackler proposed an amendment to the plan with the early start date. School would start on Aug. 26 as planned, but Aug. 28 would not be a day off as scheduled.
A vote on that amendment ended in a tie.
“We’re at an impasse,” Chairman Susan Robbins said.
Lunenburg is returning to school on Aug. 31, member Crystal Messamore said. She moved to vote on the second option Milligan presented: a start date of Aug. 31 with an end date of June 14 if there are no school days.
The motion passed six to one, with Rob Templeton and Michael Morgan voting against the schedule.
The new schedule includes both a February and April vacation, Milligan said in an email following the meeting.
In other news
* Thanks to the effort of second-grader Riley Goldwaithe, the Varnum Brook Elementary School will have a Buddy Bench. Her friend William Manganis, a second-grade student in Chelmsford, painted and sold kindness rocks to raise money for benches where children could sit and play with someone. He offered to buy a bench for Varnum Brook with the money he raised. Both children spoke at the School Committee meeting.
* The committee approved a compensation plan during executive session and validated it during the meeting. The high school principal will have a salary of $117,000 per year. He will work 260 days, be entitled to 25 vacation days, 15 sick days, five bereavement days and four personal days, Superintendent Joan Landers said.
* The average yearly payment on a bond taken in 2005 for the construction of Nissitissit Middle School will decrease from $362,338 to $333,861, saving $28,477 in fiscal 2016. The bond was refinanced at an average 2 percent yearly interest rate. The previous note was an average of 4 percent.
The original bond was $5,179,000. A balance of $2,565,000 was refinanced, according to figures provided by business manager Nancy Haines.