By Judy Wakefield
---- — In her 35 years with the town’s Department of Community Services, Director Mary Montblau can’t remember a summer vacation from school like the one that is about to occur in Andover.
To make up for five snow days last winter and meet the state’s 180-day school year requirement, students found their last day of school pushed to this Friday, June 28,
Combine that with the decision, at the request of the teachers union, to start the next school year before Labor Day, and it means crunch time for summer vacation.
With students due to report back to school Wednesday, Aug. 28, that leaves just 81/2 weeks for frolicking in the sun. Most years, vacations have been at least 10 or more weeks long.
Teachers requested the pre-Labor Day start to the school year to avoid a repeat of this year, with students remaining in class until the end of June.
Kerry Costello, president of the Andover Education Association, said the group agreed that June 28 is too late for school to be in session.
And it could have been later. As it was, students ended up going to school on Good Friday which is traditionally a day off, and high-schoolers had to attend one Saturday session to make up for missed days.
Costello said many surrounding communities already start the school year before Labor Day and it makes sense for Andover to follow suit.
“After this year going to the bitter end, with a Saturday (make-up) for high-schoolers, and using Good Friday, (that) left many teachers feeling that we needed to have the earlier start,” she said.
Costello said as another option, teachers offered to report to school before Labor Day, and then have students start after the holiday. Per contract, teachers return to school two days before students. But, the School Committee in April approved the pre-Labor Day start for everyone. That means teachers are due to report back on Monday, Aug. 26, with students following two days later. The students will be in session Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 28 and 29, and then school will be closed on Friday, Aug. 30, for an extended Labor Day weekend.
As a result, summer vacation plans are being adapted to accommodate the condensed vacation.
DCS had to cancel two popular programs for preschoolers since school was still in session when the Kidsports program for ages 4 to 6 and a cheerleading program for ages 3 to 5 were planned. Both programs were scheduled to take place this week.
In addition, DCS hires high-schoolers to run some summer programs. And since they aren’t available until after the school year ends on Friday, the start of those programs was delayed until Monday, July 1.
The same problem is arising at the end of summer vacation as well.
“Our programs held the last week of August are also affected,” Montblau said. “While our popular summer camps are closed by then, a special science program for kids was cancelled because kids will be back in school.”
But, the Friday before Labor Day, Aug. 30, remains a no-school day. And DCS is going forward with its planned Fenway Park tour for families.
“That’s still on,” Montblau said.