Scallion puts schedule options up for vote

WESTFIELD – School Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Scallion is looking to see what the community thinks of potentially altering the district’s calender for coming school years.
The options of keeping the district’s current schedule or approving a new alternative schedule, both beginning Sept. 1, were proposed at last night’s meeting of the Westfield School Committee.
While one of the schedules will follow the traditional school calender and include February and April breaks, the alternative schedule will alter the district’s spring break, effectively remove the February and April breaks, and create a longer break in the month of March.
“We’re putting a survey link on our homepage and asking families and staff to weigh in about which they prefer and whether they create any hardships,” said Scallion. “What we’re going to do in February is add a day to that long Presidents Weekend and make it a four day (weekend). Then in March, we’ll take a six-day break.”
According to the Scallion, research has concluded that a break in March enables students to come back fully rested and ready for MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Systems) testing season, and that the timing of Labor Day also necessitates the need to make a change.
“Labor Day is very late next year, so if we start then, it pushes us out to late June,” said Scallion. “I think people are OK with a September 1 start. When they start hearing August, they don’t like it.”
Scallion said that many schools in Connecticut already employ this type of scheduling and that now more and more districts in Massachusetts have begun going to a single vacation week in early March based upon the timing of testing.
“Though the decision ultimately lies with the committee, we’re asking the community and its families,” said Scallion. “Over the last few years, our kids’ programs have been very disjointed and disrupted between Christmas and February break because of the weather.”
In both schedules, the district is ensuring that it can get 180 days logged regardless of weather patterns.
School Committee Vice Chair Ramon Diaz filled in last night for Chair Daniel M. Knapik, who was under the weather, and said that he is curious about what the response from parents will look like.
“I’m interested to see what sorts of issues they have, because I’m sure there are things we haven’t even thought about,” said Diaz. “It is kind of like what we did with the Juniper Park Subcommittee, where we had a lot of input from the public. We found a lot of things people were worried about that we weren’t necessarily aware of.”
Diaz added that he is not alone in his curiosity about the schedule shift, as the rest of the school committee is also hoping a multitude of parents will participate in the survey.
“Whether it is a good idea or a bad idea, that is what we want to hear from parents about,” he said, adding that the schedule change may be of benefit to students.
“If we have another weather year like we’ve had this year, there will be more continuous learning time,” said Diaz.

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