Concerned about snow days, Wallingford parents send letters to Board of Education

WALLINGFORD — More and more parents are sending letters to the Board of Education, asking that the final four days of school be cut from this year’s calendar, and suggesting alternatives for future calendars.

After eight snow days this year, Wallingford students are going to school until June 30. It’s the same situation the students and teachers were in last year, with the final day of school being the last possible day allowed by state law.

The Board of Education will discuss how to address the end of the current school year in meetings throughout the month. Since the students are going to school for 184 days, it’s possible the board could cut the four days and still meet the 180-day state minimum. Last year, the Board of Education made the final week of school half-days to account for the heat and lack of air conditioning.

As in the past, if school is closed because of inclement weather, make-up days are tacked on to the end of the school year.

Cheryl Bardoe, the mother of a Moses Y. Beach School student, wrote a letter to the Board of Education, arguing that going to school until June 30 isn’t beneficial for students — even if the days are shortened. The letter was posted on a community forum on Facebook for other parents to use and send to school board members.

“June gets very hot, and the schools are not air-conditioned. This environment is not conducive to learning for anyone, and presents health risks to some students who suffer from asthma and other medical conditions,” the letter states.

Bardoe also wrote that the last week in June “is not valuable instructional time,” with students spending their time “watching movies, playing board games, and other activities that were designed to make the best (of a) bad situation.”

“My focus was for this year because students are currently scheduled to go to school until June 30 and that’s not a productive time for learning,” Bardoe said in a phone interview Thursday. “My first priority is advocating for the Board of Education to cut back on those four days to 180 days to allow students to get out earlier.”

Jason Zandri, a former town councilor with children in local schools, said going to school until June 30 is “just ridiculous.”

“From a practicality standpoint ... everybody’s kids are going to be burnt out at that point,” Zandri said. “... I’m kind of hoping the Board of Education will listen to the electorate and consider removing those days.”

In addition to requesting the final four days of the school year be cut, “it would be wise to look at other alternatives” for future calendars, Bardoe said. One possible method is having what she calls “built-in” snow days. Using the 184-school day calendar as an example, Bardoe said four days can be designated as snow days. If there are four snow days, the last day of school doesn’t change, she said. The calendar would only be extended if there are more than four snow days.

If the school system doesn’t need four snow days, Bardoe said the extra days would be used for instructional time that could be planned out in advance.

When asked about the idea, Board of Education Chairwoman Roxane McKay said everything is open for discussion.” There was still information and details she needed to have, however, adding that it was “premature” to comment.

“We need to talk about this in a board meeting,” she said. “I’m open-minded and I want to hear what our options are ... I need to hear what the Board of Education members and committee members are thinking — what are their priorities, what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate.”

The school system has a calendar committee which will meet throughout the month to address this year’s, as well as next year’s, school calendar. Board member Kathy Castelli, who represents the Board of Education on the committee, was doubtful the school system would make the transition to a calendar containing built-in snow days.

“We’re trying to give kids instruction on 184 days,” Castelli said. “I don’t want to play with those four instructional days and call them snow days.”

Both McKay and Castelli said they, and the rest of the board, don’t want students and teachers to go to school until June 30. Before changes can be made, however, discussions have to be had, McKay said.

Bardoe and other parents want to see other alternatives for the calendar explored. Changing how the calendar is constructed for the future would help parents with their schedules, Bardoe said.

“We know there is going to be snow and we know there is going to be some days each year that school gets canceled for some weather-related reason, so to not truly build some days in for that means the calendar can never be relied on,” Bardoe said. “There’s not a reason to not build those in ... parents need to know when they can plan their work and other activities.”

evo@record-journal.com (203) 317-2235 Twitter: @EricVoRJ



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