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November 22. 2012 10:52PM

Londonderry school officials mull cutting 1 week from vacation slate

LONDONDERRY - As school officials continue contemplating changes to the calendar year, the possibility of doing away with February and April vacations and replacing them with one single vacation week in March is one option being considered.

During Tuesday night's School Board meeting, an informal discussion and brainstorming session encouraged administrators to think outside the box while planning the 2013-2014 school year.

Vice Chairman Nancy Hendricks said she disagreed with the current process of having the day off before Thanksgiving. "I think every person in corporate America would agree," she added.

Instead, she said she'd favor the March combined vacation option.

"We've got to find a time to make classroom experiences more intensive," said Hendricks. "How do we find time for (field trips and assemblies) without cutting down on instructional time?"

Board member John Robinson said he'd personally have no problem leading the state in having a combined March vacation.

"Somebody's got to be the first," he noted.

But board member Leitha Reilly admitted that her own children "might have a hard time dealing with" one less vacation.

"I think we need to instead find a way to balance instructional time," Reilly added.

Initial discussions on the potential calendar year changes were tabled during last month's meeting since several board members weren't present to offer their thoughts on the matter.

Superintendent Nathan Greenberg asked the School Board Tuesday night to give serious thought to the calendar's future.

"One of the issues that came forward was fracturing the school year," the superintendent said this week. "That appeared to be a major concern."

A district-wide survey took place online in mid-June, when 1,286 random parents were asked questions regarding the length of the school day, school year and school calendar, leaving plenty of room for comments and suggestions.

The majority of parents surveyed, he noted, weren't in favor of having a longer school year, but most indicated an interest in having a full-day kindergarten program and wouldn't mind paying for it.

Greenberg said the option of having one March vacation instead of vacations in February and April would prove a challenge since none of the other area school districts do this.

Lengthening the school year might also prove impractical, the superintendent said, as many families make travel plans during July and August.

Board member Steve Young further noted that the survey process was somewhat flawed as it adjusted the questions asked to parents based on their initial responses.

The end result, he said, was uneven statistics on "yes" and "no" answers.

"The answers have no validity at this point," Young noted. "I guess the first questions are OK but the follow-up questions aren't."

At Greenberg's suggestion, a public forum on the calendar situation will take place during an upcoming meeting, giving local parents plenty of time to get in on the process.

"I wouldn't have heartache about dropping some of the holidays, such as Columbus Day," he told the board. "But I think we'd need to give people some significant notice before we make any permanent changes."

A date for the public forum will be scheduled during one of the January meetings.

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April Guilmet may be reached at AGuilmet@newstote.com.


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