Darien schools return to weeklong February break
DARIEN — A decision to revise the school calendar so students receive a full week of February vacation was met with applause.
“We never get applause,” joked board member Tara Ochman after the motion was approved at a March 15 board meeting.
The board returned the break to a full week after seeing increased absences for the past two years in the days leading up to a four-day vacation. With early dismissals, about 1,100 students in the district were not in school for a full day before this year’s break.
The new calendar gives a full week of break, adding on a day at the end of the school year. Superintendent Dan Brenner said the calendar had been revised to match the regional calendar, but the board got approval from the state to revert back to a weeklong break.
“The absences aren’t just impacting the kids leaving, but the kids staying,” Brenner said. “Those kids leaving are essentially creating a non-school day. ... We check off the box, but without the mass, it’s not a meaningful day.”
Not all parents agreed with the decision. Millyn Gaaserud, a parent of a high school senior, asked the board to consider the impact a longer break may have on students in semester-long AP classes.
“Law and Government has 60 school days that they meet,” she said. “Since you drop one every eight days, there’s only 52 days that he has a possibility of going to that AP class before the AP exam hits. Each day that he misses is 2 percent of the whole class. So, if you had a lot of snow days, adding another two days of break gets to where it’s pretty conceivable to say you’re only getting 90 percent of a class or 85 percent of a class.”
Board member Jill McCammon agreed, citing concerns over student exhaustion come June and a lack of time between the end of school and summer school beginning.
McCammon went on to abstain on voting. But the majority of the board voted in favor of switching the calendar, feeling the high number of absences were a sticking point in revising the calendar. Board Chairman Michael Harman said he had received emails from parents and teachers about the impact of the four-day break.
“Two years ago when we approved this calendar, we were doing the weigh-off,” he said. “The concern I have looking at these numbers is we made a decision and 20 percent of the district is telling us regardless of our decision, they’re making a different decision.”
Brenner said the district will reach out to parents, asking them to consider the break when making travel plans. He said while the point about AP classes is valid, missing days for breaks and snow days is something students know they’re facing when they sign up for the course.