AYER -- Ayer Shirley Regional School District Superintendent Carl Mock presented a colorful draft of the 2014-2015 "School Event Calendar" during the March 4 school committee meeting.
Mock said that, although the rough draft reflects many of the requests and recommendations of teachers, the request to have the first semester end prior to Martin Luther King Day, which falls on Jan. 19, did not pan out.
"A count of semester days was significantly different in the number of days between the first and second semesters," he said.
The teachers had also requested that not all early release days be on Thursdays, due to concerns that students who receive certain support services on Thursday afternoons would always be the ones to suffer as a result.
However, said Mock, because the district prefers to have "a critical mass of time" of at least two to three hours for meetings, and faculty meetings generally occur on Thursdays, that will not change.
The proposed first day of school for students is Tuesday, Sept. 2, mainly because the construction company working on the high school building renovation wants to maximize the summer days so that the building is ready for student occupancy.
In light green on the draft calendar are the four weeks of summer during which there is an extended school year program for special education students. In darker green are school vacation days; professional development days are in blue.
In light blue are the proposed teacher orientation on Aug. 25 and team leader orientation on Aug. 26. In darker blue are the three full professional development days for teachers as required by their contract: Aug. 27 and 28, and Oct. 14.
In December are two full weeks of "Christmas Vacation," from Monday, Dec. 22 through Friday, Jan. 2.
Mock said that another problem teachers brought up was how much November is broken up, between report cards, parent-teacher conferences, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.
"So we tried three (school) weeks together and three half-days the week of Thanksgiving," he said. Nov. 24 is a half-day for grades kindergarten through five for parent-teacher conference preparation, Nov. 25 is a half-day for grade K-5 conferences and Nov. 26 is a half-day district-wide. Those and other half-days and early release days are indicated in orange.
Feb. 4 and 5 are half-days for K-8 conference preparation and conferences. High school half-days for exams are on Jan. 22 and 23.
June 15 and 16 are half-days for high school exams for grades nine through 11. The last day of school would be a half-day on June 18, the 181st day.
A radical proposal
After Mock reviewed the calendar, School Committee Chair Pat Kelly made a "radical proposal" for the second half of the year.
"Have Presidents' Day (Feb. 16) off, but have no February vacation," he said. Instead of February vacation, the vacation week would begin on March 16.
"Then have Patriots' Day off but no April vacation," he suggested. "Then you would have 10 weeks of class after that, and school ends three days earlier. That should provide a better continuum of the curriculum that would impact test scores."
Kelly said that the committee had started a discussion last year about how students are getting thrown off by long breaks.
"I'm not sure how the committee would feel about it, but it makes a lot of sense to me," he said.
Committee Vice Chair Susan Therriault suggested that Mock look into whether the March vacation time would interfere with MCAS or PARCC testing of students. PARCC is the newer "Partnership for Assessment of Readiness of College and Careers" that is being field-tested by some grade levels within the district this year.
Kelly and Mock also suggested devising a method for getting parent and staff feedback on the proposal.