DARIEN, Conn. – New mandates from the state government will bring changes to the Darien Public Schools calendar in a few years, including a later first day of school and a possible cut to February break.
In 2013, the state legislature formed a Uniform Regional School Calendar Task Force to bring all school districts in the same region onto a similar calendar. The task force laid out a series of terms that all school districts must follow when making their calendars for the school year.
The new rules require all schools in the same region to start their classes on the same day. Cooperative Educational Services, the group that covers Darien as well as all towns from Greenwich to Stratford, chose the Wednesday before Labor Day. This would be a change for Darien, which normally starts two days earlier on that Monday.
The uniform calendar also requires all districts to schedule a professional development day on Election Day, meaning teachers will be required to go to school those days but not students. The rules also require at least one professional development day before the students arrive, with the rest spread out throughout the year.
The regional calendar also sets two week-long vacations one in December and one in April. A February break is not included in the guidelines, but could be arranged by school districts using five allotted “flexible days.”
“I know that it’s been a longstanding tradition here in Darien to have the February vacation,” Assistant Superintendent Timothy Canty told the Board of Education last month.
The uniform calendar is optional for the 2014-15 school year, and the Darien administration suggests sticking with the calendar approved April 2013 for next year. That would mean next year’s calendar will be mostly unchanged from this year’s calendar.
But unless the state legislature changes the law, Darien will have to comply with the uniform calendar for the 2015-16 school year. The Board of Education plans to make a decision on one of two options for that year later this month.
“It’s important to approve of a calendar [now] so we can plan ahead, and so families can plan too,” Interim Superintendent Lynne Pierson told the school board last month.
Canty offered two options for Darien’s new calendar at the school board’s meeting on March 25. Option A would use the five “flexible days” given to each district to preserve February Break, which would run from the Friday before President’s Day (a mandated holiday under the uniform calendar) and the following week.
Option 2 would have a shorter February break, running only five days including Presidents Day weekend. The district would then use its flexible days to let students out earlier, moving the last day of classes from June 17 to June 14 in 2016.
“At the end of the day, we’re obligated to use these guidelines to develop the calendar,” Canty said. “We’ve done so, but at the same time we’ve tried to shape two options for the board’s consideration that would be at some level consistent with past practices.”
Darien’s administration has asked for parent feedback before the Board of Education makes its decision. The two proposed calendars are available on the district’s website, and suggestions can be sent to Canty at firstname.lastname@example.org.