By Elizabeth F. McNamara
If you are a fan of weeklong breaks in February and April, you may exhale. The School Committee Tuesday night approved the 2018-19 calendar, keeping both the February and April weeklong breaks as well as retaining the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. (Good Friday is not a extra day off next year because it takes place during the weeklong April break.)
The first day of school for students will be Wednesday, Aug. 29; the last day of school (barring added school cancellation days) is Monday, June 17.
But School Committee members continued to express frustration over the length of the school year – with bad-weather days, the school year typically ends sometime after June 20. (With this week’s added snow day, the final day of this school year looks to be June 22. The 2017-18 calendar here has been adjusted to reflect weather-related school closures and the later end of the school year.)
“I’d be shocked if we were the only district that found after the middle of June there was significantly less production,” said Committee member Matt Plain.
“It seems like every year we’re talking about it, it’s already too late,” said Chairwoman Carolyn Mark. In addition to those families who plan trips during February or April breaks, Mark said, there are families who have custody arrangements based on school vacations.
Supt. Victor Mercurio suggested deciding the 2019-20 calendar a lot earlier, by October 2018, to give families time to plan.
Plain said parents needed to accommodate the school calendar.
“As a parent I’m required to get my child to school,” he said. “We’ve got to find ways to fit 180 school days in the best way we can.”
The challenge for 2018-19 is there are two election days (Primary Day is Wednesday, Sept. 12; Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 6) and both Jewish holidays land on weekdays.
Plain recalled the public comment at the Feb. 27 School Committee meeting, where people remarked that one reason they moved to East Greenwich was because of the respect shown for the Jewish holidays. While those residents feel welcome by East Greenwich, Plain said, what about others?
“There are two religions represented on this calendar. There are not only two religions,” he said. “What message are we sending to those who practice other religions?”
Committeeman Michael Fain asked Supt. Mercurio if there was a specific absentee rate – when it’s known that a number of students will be absent for a particular reason, such as a religious holiday – at which it was determined school should be cancelled on that day.
“I don’t know what the tipping point is,” Mercurio said.
The committee voted 7-0 to approve the calendar. Chairwoman Mark pledged the School Committee would start work on the calendar for 2019-20 in September.