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School calendar for 2014-15 OK'd with three vacations

Published 2:05 pm, Tuesday, January 29, 2013
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The Board of Education on Monday unanimously approved a calendar proposed by Superintendent of Schools Elliott Landon for the 2014-15 school year, setting a schedule similar to this year's.

But the new calendar drew criticism from a top official in Westport's teacher union.

The 2014-15 academic year is scheduled to begin Monday, Aug. 25, and finish Friday, June 19. It will maintain the school district's current allotment of 182 instruction days for students and 188 working days for teachers.

Continuing another long-running tradition, the 2014-15 year will have three vacation breaks for students and staff. Its holiday recess will run from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2; the winter break will run from Feb. 16 through Feb. 20, while its spring break will be from April 13 through April 17.

In a change from the current year, the 2014-15 schedule will keep the town's public schools open on Columbus Day in 2014.

The 2014-15 calendar includes five snow/emergency days, two more than the current year's original allotment of such days. When Superstorm Sandy hit the town in late October, the school district used five snow/emergency days far earlier than anticipated.

If more than five snow/emergency days are used in 2014-15 before April 13, make-up days for students and teachers will start on April 13 and continue on each subsequent day of the spring break until no longer needed.

While Landon's proposed 2014-15 calendar did not face any opposition from school board members, its Aug. 20 start date for staff was questioned by Coleytown Middle School teacher John Horrigan, also a co-president of the Westport Education Association, the local teachers' union.

"For a lot of our teachers, coming in on the 20th [of August] is really going to be a hardship because a lot of them work at summer school and they do other jobs during the summer," he said. "Maybe they finish after the first week of August, so maybe they're getting done around the eighth. That only really leaves them one week to spend time with their families."

Horrigan recommended instead that teachers start the week beginning Aug. 25, while also expressing doubts about the educational effectiveness of moving directly into a five-day week for students and staff during the first week of classes.

"I don't think the teachers really are in agreement that a full week starting off is the best thing," Horrigan added. "I've heard from quite a few teachers who've said that after the summer being off, coming back and having the full week is really taxing for them, as well as for the students."

Landon responded that students would benefit from the Aug. 25 start date.

"I think kids learn better at the start of school year, rather than extending the school year," he said. "A full week of school at the very start is better than a disrupted week."

The current 2012-13 academic year began with a five-day week for students kicking off Aug. 27, while staff started on Aug. 22.

Board of Education members, meanwhile, voiced support for Landon's proposed 2014-15 calendar.

"In this particular year, the way holidays land, we're going to have almost two weeks off [at the turn of the calendar year] to spend with our families at a very precious time of year," said Jeannie Smith. "I understand as a former teacher where he [Horrigan] is speaking from, but I also know there's an exchange and I also see that leaving in February and April [breaks] is a benefit that a lot of our surrounding districts have not kept in.

Following their discussion with Horrigan, the board moved quickly to approve Landon's proposed 2014-15 calendar.

Approval of the 2014-15 calendar follows the board's practice of setting academic schedules two years ahead of the current school year.

pschott@bcnnew.com; 203-255-4561, ext. 118; twitter.com/paulschott