Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

March 13, 2014

Pre-Labor Day start for school; first day set at Aug. 27

By Dustin Luca
dluca@andovertownsman.com

---- — A pre-Labor Day start is in store for students and teachers next school year.

The School Committee voted Tuesday night for a Thursday, Aug. 27, start to the next academic year.

With no snow days, the last day of school would be June 15.

The calendar represented option A among three choices put to staff and parents for input over the last month.

The vote on option A came after the School Committee received 32 emails from members of the community, 30 of which called for them to implement either of the first two calendar options — the second of which would have started school on Sept. 2, the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Of them, 18 supported starting on Aug. 27, and 12 supported starting on Sept. 2, according to the committee.

Option C, the least favored, called for a Sept. 4 start date.

Feedback from teachers and a web question put out by The Townsman to its readers a month ago showed similar varied response.

In the web question, the Aug. 27 option had 29 votes. Sept. 2 had 42 votes, and Sept. 4 had 34 votes. Teachers, meanwhile, voted 30 percent each in favor of either options A or C, and 40 percent on the middle option, according to Annie Gilbert, School Committee member.

“That’s similar to what we’re seeing,” School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue said. “There’s a difference of opinion, but support for all three — but not overwhelming support for any one.”

The teachers’ contract, which was recently settled between the School Committee and AEA, allows teachers to enforce starting school no earlier than Sept. 1, as their contract year running from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31. Typically, the year starts with two in-service days for teachers to meet, move in and prepare for the year before students arrive.

When the three options were presented to the public in February, it was noted that option A had both teachers and students starting in August, while option B had teachers reporting the last few days of August and students starting school on Sept. 2.

With the teachers waiving their right to start in September, all three options were up for discussion, Forgue said.

Discussion on which option to go forward with centered on whether students would make use of two days in August prior to a four-day weekend.

Committee member Barbara L’Italien pressed for the committee to take the second option, eliminating the awkward two days of school before four days off.

“In reading some of the comments, some families felt almost a false start to have a couple days, then have a four-day weekend, and really question to what degree students really started any forward momentum,” she said. “I’m in favor of B because I feel like it’s a happy medium.”

Hugh Smith, a high school student and student liaison to the School Committee, said having two days before Labor Day is “a good way to let kids know that school started.”

“Not much material occurs within those two days, so I’d say when you come back from that four-day weekend is when you’d start class material,” Smith said. “That, to me, makes the most sense.”

The committee voted 4-1 in favor of option A, with L’Italien opposing the motion.

The news of next year’s calendar came as the district had already used four snow days in the current school year.