PLYMOUTH - The Board of Education has approved the school calendars for 2018-19 and 2019-20 well in advance, to give parents and staff plenty of time to plan vacations around it.
Last year the board approved the current year calendar in January and the goal was to get it done in December this time, said Superintendent Martin Semmel. “But we were ready to go with it now so we thought why not do it earlier if possible.”
The state had previously mandated the schools follow a regional calendar but then that mandate was eliminated, he added. “Now we’re free to go beyond. So instead of bringing the calendar up every year, our parents know well in advance when the kids would be off and when they can request time off from work.”
Semmel noted there are two big changes in the upcoming calendars: The professional development day that formerly took place in October has been moved to March, and school will be in session on Veterans Day when it falls on a weekday.
The October professional development day was right on the heels of the August one and just before the November one, “so it just seemed like we were not able to get as much out of it as we could if we moved the day to March,” he said.
Semmel said when he talked about the change with parents they were “really excited about having March broken up and I think our students would be happy about having a day off in March as well, because March is well known as the longest month in education.”
As for Veterans Day, it just happened to fall on a Saturday this year and will fall on a Sunday in 2018, but in 2019 it will be on a Monday, he noted. “In our conversations with folks who are veterans, they think it would be better to have school on Veterans Day.”
When school is in session on Veterans Day there is a presentation for Veterans Day but if students are home that day they don’t get anything on it, Semmel said. “Our plan would be to work with the American Legion to talk about things we could do at all four schools to honor our veterans.”
Board member Gerard Bourbonniere noted that for both years school is in session on the Monday before Election Day, then closed for Election Day, and back in session on Wednesday. Why not just give them a four day weekend, and add an extra school day in June, he asked.
The board didn’t take up that issue but fellow board member Josiah Elsaghir wondered why school is closed on Election Day.
“One of the big reasons is we use the schools as a voting place,” Semmel said. “When you open up the building completely for voting, you open yourself up for a host of safety issues, plus the parking and all of that stuff becomes nightmarish.”
Election Day serves as a professional development day so the teachers are at the school, he said. “I have to work very hard to make sure our teachers didn’t park anywhere near where the voters were going to park, but if it’s a school day those parking lots are pretty full. Now that we’re doing it [voting] at the high school, they were in the gym the entire time. It’s hard to commingle those two activities.”
“Honestly if our elections were not in one of our buildings technically we could be open,” said Board Chairwoman Melissa Johnson. “But all these years we’ve at least used one, sometimes two [school] buildings on and off.”
The 2018-19 and 2019-20 calendars are now posted on the school district website at plymouth.k12.ct.us.
Susan Corica can be reached at 860-973-1802 or firstname.lastname@example.org.