Connecticut politicians have delayed by one year the mandatory date for school systems to implement common calendars.
The controversial legislation, signed last June by Governor Dannel P. Malloy, required each of the state’s six regional service centers to adopt a uniform school calendar by the 2015-16 academic year. Now the deadline becomes the 2016-17 academic year. Meriden, Wallingford and Cheshire are all part of one regional center, while Southington belongs to another.
Motivation for the law is cost reductions. Hypothetically, districts in a region could share services, like transportation, more easily if all schools followed an identical calendar. Teachers and staff from multiple municipalities could take professional development courses together on one shared day. Consolidations could generate budget savings.
But complications could outweigh the positives. What happens when one town has more snow days than another? Some existing employee contracts mandate a certain amount of time worked. Must these contracts now be renegotiated? Districts in a region may each traditionally hold a different number of days in a school year. Which number of days will the region adopt?
There are questions aplenty that require further attention. Hence, delaying the adoption date by one year makes sense. This will give state politicians and local educators enough time to work through the lingering unknowns before rushing into implementation. If the bungled Common Core roll-out has taught us anything, it’s that legislators would be wise to exercise due diligence before overhauling Connecticut’s education system.
The bill, which was introduced by the General Assembly’s Education Committee, contains another practical amendment: It would grant each district five “flex” days. This way, schools could choose to close for something not on the regional calendar — like Jewish holidays or Three Kings Day. This would preserve a valuable source of control for local education administrators.
Which speaks to the primary problem with common calendars: Municipal schools are losing their ability to control their own schedules. On this matter, we agree with former Southington School Superintendent Joseph V. Erardi: “I’m a believer for local governance for local schools.”
But now state leaders have postponed the mandate by one year so that they can try to work out the many kinks with this complicated program. This is better than rushing into common calendars, but it would have been preferable to leave the power to schedule school days where it belongs: in the hands of local administrators who oversee their municipal districts.