NEWARK – Changes to the calendar for the coming school year will mean longer vacations for Worcester County’s public school students.
In a break from past practice, the Worcester County Board of Education this week approved a calendar that includes no inclement weather days. By eliminating the usual three built-in bad weather closures, officials were able to provide students with longer winter and spring breaks.
“It is a big change for us,” said Carrie Sterrs, the school system’s coordinator of public relations and special programs.
The calendar approved Tuesday sets the first day of school at Sept. 3. Noteworthy closures include a winter break from Dec. 23 through Jan. 3 and a spring break from April 6-13. The last day of school is tentatively set for June 15, but Sterrs stressed it was tentative, as it could be as late as June 22. Because there are no inclement weather days built in to the calendar, they will instead be tacked on after June 15.
“Say we have a closure on Feb. 10,” Sterrs said. “That would mean we automatically shift the end of our school year to June 16. So for every day that we are closed throughout that school year we will keep going until we hit that June 22 hard end. Now say we get hit with massive amounts of snow and we’re closed for 10 days. Once we got past these five days, we will then need to make further modifications within our calendar.”
Superintendent Lou Taylor told the board he and Sterrs had reviewed the school calendars from the last 15 years and had found there were just three or four years when schools were closed more than five days.
Sterrs said officials opted to remove the built-in inclement weather days to allow for more flexibility in the calendar. She said that prior to removing them, the spring break had been broken up because of a required April 7 closure.
“That is a day we legally had to be closed for students because of the presidential primary,” she said. “Again, and also during that week, April 10 and April 13 are also legal holidays for schools so we’re required to have full closure those days. It kind of made a very choppy week in the other two proposals but in making this change with our inclement weather days we were actually able to make this a more solid break for students as well as staff.”
Sterrs said officials hoped the new calendar would also encourage parents to schedule vacations when schools were closed to reduce absences.
“Building these breaks should afford our schools a talking point for parents to say ‘hey we’re giving you ample opportunity to take a solid vacation throughout the school year so if we can limit vacation during the school year when we’re actually in session that would be preferable,’” she said. “That’ll be a help as well.”
School board member Elena McComas said she thought the most difficult part of the new calendar would be educating parents. Sterrs agreed that informing parents was vital and pointed out that they shouldn’t count on June 15 being the last day of school.
“That 22nd is kind of your safe space to start planning your vacations, or when you’re going to start reporting to your summer job, things like that,” she said.
Taylor agreed, saying the school system will market the change and do their best to make students and parents aware of it.