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School Committee Discusses Snow Day Make-Ups

Officials in the Mendon-Upton Regional School District will be surveying parents and staff to gauge interest in making up snow days with scheduled off days and moving to a one-week winter vacation in lieu of a winter and spring vacation in the future.

At the February 10 School Committee Meeting, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joseph Maruszczak informed the Committee that he had recently received inquiries about how many snow days the district had during the 2014/2015 school year. Maruszczak reported during the February 10 meeting that the district had cancelled school four days, which would bring the last official day of school to Friday, June 20. Since the February 10 meeting, the district had another snow day cancellation on February 13, extending the last day of school to Monday, June 23.

"Folks reminded me that we had a contingency plan in the 2011/2012 school year," said Maruszczak, stating that the main difference that year was that they started the year having to cancel the first three days of school due to Hurricane Irene. Although the district had developed a contingency plan, which included taking back a Professional Development Day or Good Friday which are off for the students, and days during February vacation, the district never had to put the plan in action due to no snow cancellation days.

"A 5th snow day brings us to Monday, June 23, and conceivably, we can go [to school] five additional days, up to June 27," he said. Maruszczak told that Committee that although that would not be ideal, he felt they were "in a relatively safe area" before they needed to start looking at options such as taking back a Professional Development Day or Good Friday.

School Committee Member Chris Russo asked Maruszczak if they have ever considered a different scheduling for winter breaks. "I am not saying I am for this, but have we ever thought of going with a March vacation and eliminating February and April vacations," asked Russo. Maruszczak said that there are only a handful of districts in Massachusetts that have made the switch from two to one vacations in the second half of the school year. "From my perspective, I would not advocate that. I think there is a rhythm to the school year...there is a value to have the kids getting that week in February and in April," said Maruszczak.

A few School Committee Members thought that switching to a one week winter break would be a good idea, however. "From a parent's perspective, I feel like they are just getting back to school in January, and then their off," said Committee Member Diane Duncan, who wondered out loud if the teachers felt the same way. "I would be a big advocate for one vacation," she said. A few School Committee Members mentioned that one vacation would eliminate the issue of children in school late in June because of extra snow days, when temperatures in the classroom can be high.

School Committee Member Liana Moore suggested they survey the parents, administration, and staff to see what their thoughts were on changing the school calendar. Duncan agreed that a survey would be beneficial. "We want to get a well-rounded view of what is best for the kids and for the staff," said Duncan.

Maruszczak said that he would develop a 360 survey to look at making up one or more of the snow days as well as feeling out the parents and staff about the winter break. He also informed the School Committee that he would do some research on schools in the state that have changed to one vacation and what the pros and cons are and report back his findings at the March 3 meeting.




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