In response to snow, school board considers shortening school year
WESTPORT — To avoid losing any of its April break, Westport schools will likely shorten its school calendar by two days after a string of bad weather has caused more school cancellations than were planned for.
The Board of Education discussed the possibility Monday night to cut the number of instructional days in the 2017-18 school calendar from 182 down to the state-required 180, adding instead professional development days on June 25 and 26.
“As you know we’ve had a series of difficult storms, and in this calendar there were four snow days, so to speak, built in,” Superintendent of Schools Colleen Palmer said. “It has been the goal of the board not to have instructional time extend into the fourth week of June, and once you expend those snow days, the approach has been to cut into April vacation.”
The last of the four built-in snow days was used March 7, as a result of heavy snow and winds. However, the damage caused by that nor’easter caused a cancellation March 8, too, putting the district over the top. Another storm on Tuesday caused the third cancellation in two weeks.
Palmer and the school board were able to utilize the late-June professional development days after the Westport Education Association, the district’s teachers union, agreed to the plan.
Palmer cited low attendance rates on instruction dates scheduled during school breaks as one reason for the reduction in total days students will be in school.
“The idea of taking a day or two from April break is always difficult for our families, for our staff, for everyone. And if you don’t get a high attendance rate, it tends not to be a productive day of instruction,” Palmer said.
School board member Jeannie Smith pointed out teachers would be pressed to fit 182 days of planned curriculum in 180 days.
“I think we’re between a rock and a hard place and we’re trying to make a good decision based on this calendar,” Palmer said.
The board was otherwise in favor, though.
Palmer said any more weather cancellations would have to be made up during spring break.
The board anticipates voting on the calendar change at its March 26 meeting.