BRISTOL - Board of Education members recently discussed the merits of a proposed bill in the state legislature to allow districts to set a fixed graduation date for high school seniors, regardless of when the school year ends.
Superintendent Susan Moreau said she attended a legislative breakfast recently, along with board member Jeff Caggiano, and learned about some bills that will be presented in committee, and then possibly to the whole state legislature.
One bill would allow a set graduation date and allow seniors to graduate even if they haven’t reached the 180 school days required by the state for a school year. Districts planning after graduation parties or that rent a venue for graduation need to know well in advance when the date will be, she said.
“If any of you have been involved with Project Graduation, you don’t know if it’s going to be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and sometimes you lose some of the acts you were going to have,” she said.
“Some districts rent the Bushnell for example, and it may not be available on another night,” she added.
Moreau said she doesn’t see a problem with early graduation, other than it could impact final exam schedules.
“The Board of Ed would set the date in their town, but it’s a fixed date that you don’t change,” she explained. “Normally it’s the April board meeting where you choose the last day of school, after we think the majority of winter weather has passed.”
But if the board was to choose, say, June 13 or 14 for graduation, and then there were six more snow days, there could be a gap between graduation and when the school year ends, she said.
“I would presume they would draft the legislation so we wouldn’t have to utilize this if we chose not to,” said Board Chairman Chris Wilson. “We could just keep doing things the way that we’ve been doing them.”
“I would imagine so,” Moreau replied. “It would be permission to do so, should you choose.”
Wilson said it is possible later graduation dates could interfere with college orientations. Moreau noted early graduation could also benefit seniors who join the military and need to go off to boot camp before the school year ends.
Wilson said Massachusetts, where he graduated high school, allows for early graduation.
“We did get released before the rest of the school did and I never saw it as a problem,” he said. “I thought it was pretty good I guess, and we probably got released 10 days before the rest of the school did. We had activities to do but we didn’t have exams.”
“Must have been in the ’70s,” Moreau said. “It was, a long time ago,” Wilson agreed, drawing laughter from the audience.
Moreau said there are also multiple bills addressing the costs of special education at the state level and one banning the governor from reducing Education Cost Sharing (ECS) during the school year. ECS is the formula the state legislature has established to distribute state education funding to local districts.
“We had to deal with that a couple of years ago, we lost about $750,000 worth of funding that we had not been prepared to lose,” she said.
“The environmentalists want to get rid of plastic straws and Styrofoam plates and other micro-plastics,” she continued. “This would have a cost for our food service department, because we use all of those.”
Moreau said she is not necessarily opposed to food service getting rid of plastics, because there is a national movement to ban them due to plastic pollution in the environment.
She said she and Assistant Superintendent Catherine Carbone will be meeting with state Rep. Cara Pavalock-D’Amato to discuss these bills, since Pavalock-D’Amato serves on the legislature’s Education Committee.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.