Under a draft calendar being proposed by Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson, students would start next year's first day of classes on Aug. 28 and the last day would be sometime in June.
However, due to questions regarding the scheduling of conference days, early release days, whether April break should be moved to be two weeks prior to the budget referendum and other details, the approval of the official 2012-13 calendar will have to wait for later this month.
The Board of Education took up the setting of the proposed calendar during its Feb. 7 meeting at the , but because information regarding student-teacher-parent conference days was submitted on the same day as the meeting, board members said they needed more time to review that information before voting.
This year, Robinson said she tried to create a calendar that was close to the schedule that had been approved by other schools in the region, however, distinct differences remain.
For instance, many school districts designate Columbus Day and Veterans Day as holidays, however Newtown does not. Instead, veterans and active service members are invited into the schools as honored guests on Veterans Day.
Robinson also included in the draft a tentative plan to hold spring break earlier than normal – between April 8 and 12. She said she moved spring break after receiving complaints that the break occured too close to the holding of the budget referendum, and instead should be scheduled for two weeks prior to then in order to maximize turnout at the annual vote.
However, the superintendent asked the board to give her guidance on the strategy because that would mean Newtown would hold its spring break earlier than other nearby school districts, such as Danbury, which has spring break scheduled for April 15 to 19.
"It does not coincide with the regional calendar and so that is something the board has to make a decision on," Robinson said of Newtown's proposed spring break.
One of the advantages to matching Newtown's school calendar with those of other districts in the region is that it cuts down on transportation costs, Robinson said.
For instance, many local students attend magnet schools in Danbury. If Newtown public schools are closed for spring break during a week that Danbury schools are open, the students who attend the Danbury magnet school still must attend classes and they receive bus transportation from Newtown that week
By having a different spring break from Danbury, the district would have to pay the added cost of running buses during a week that they don't normally operate. The superintendent said she questioned whether she should move spring break or leave it unchanged.
"I'm a little conflicted on what is the right week to take," Robinson said.
Other issues facing the board with regard to the calendar was the scheduling of early release day for professional development. Education board Chairman Debbie Leidlein suggested that during months where certain Mondays are holidays, the district should schedule professional development days for the Friday preceding the long weekend in order to make it more convenient for parents.
For instance, rather than the early dismissal scheduled for Fri., Feb. 1, Leidlein suggested moving the early dismissal and professional development time to Fri., Feb. 15 because the following Monday and Tuesday were school holidays.
However, other board members, including former teacher John Vorous, said if the board tried to schedule too many professional development days prior to a long weekend, some teachers might skip the sessions.
"Enrollment will be done," he said, adding he would suggest limiting the number of professional development days scheduled for a Friday afternoon prior to a long weekend.
Also up for further discussion was a proposal to tack on additional days at the end of the school year just in case there were make-up days. If it turned out there were no snow days, and as a result no days to make up, the district could remove those extra days from the calendar. But at least the days were on the calendar and a visual reminder to parents that the school year might run a little longer, Leidlein said.
"It's simply a mindset," she said.
However board member Richard Gaines said parents were already use to the tradition of tacking on snow days to the end of the calendar, and that having extra days would confuse parents.
"That's just bloody confusing," he said.
Other board members talked about a compromise, such as indicating to parents directly on the calendar which days would be make-up days.
The board is expected to take up the calendar at its Feb. 22 meeting at the Municipal Center.