WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional Transition Committee has rejected the superintendent's recommendation to shorten the April vacation.
Superintendent Kimberley Grady proposed a school calendar for the 2018-19 school year that replaced the spring vacation week with two long weekends. Grady was worried that extra snow days could put the district in a position where it wouldn't have the required 185 days of school.
With the full April break and five snow days, the school year would end on June 25. Classes must be over by June 30 and in this case, with weekends, that would be the June 28.
"This was all we really had. There are not too many options other than taking things away," Grady said.
Grady's proposal would have ended the year on June 20, giving more time should there be more than five snow days to make up. That proposal, however, caused a significant backlash from the public.
On Thursday, the committee voted 5-2 to restore the full April break, with Lanesborough representatives Al Terranova and Regina DiLego voting against. But it will also explore the use of "blizzard bags," which allows a snow day to actually count as a school day provided enough students complete a certain amount of work.
"I thought the superintendent did due diligence. She talked to the people she needed to talk to and touched the bases," Terranova said.
The district essentially had three options to consider on Thursday: It could have approved the superintendent's recommendation, restored the break, or restored the break with a provision that allowed the district to add school days back in during that week if needed.
The three school principals, however, objected to that final option saying teachers, staff, and parents all plan vacation ahead of time and it wouldn't be good to take that break away midway through the year. DiLego added that there is a chance families would make those plans and then the students just wouldn't show up even if the days were added back into the calendar.
"I am not comfortable with taking back days in April," Mount Greylock Principal Mary MacDonald said, a sentiment echoed by both Williamstown Principal Joelle Brookner and Lanesborough Principal Martin McEvoy.
Transition Committee Chairman Joe Bergeron listed some reasons against eliminating the April break. He said students and staff enjoy that time off, that it is used by seniors to visit colleges, and that the district is already going through a number of changes.
The Transition Committee also discussed possibly removing the February break instead but ultimately felt because that's when the flu typically hits its peak, and there is a chance that those could end up being snow days anyway, the committee backed off the concept.
"February tends to be a really sick time, so that is why we went to April," Brookner said.
Transition Committee member and Williamstown representative Steven Miller said he'd like to keep the school calendar as close to the current one as possible. He was particularly in favor of using blizzard bags as a way to limit the number of snow days that need to be made up. (Clarksburg School successfully instituted the bags this past year and ended school on Monday.)
In other business, the Transition Committee approved a three-year contract with Grady to become the superintendent on July 1. Grady is currently the "interim superintendent" but was offered the job on a more permanent basis after a search process earlier this year.
The committee also approved a contract with Irene Ryan, who will take Grady's former job of director of pupil services. She, too, will start on July 1 and Grady said this will be the first time in a number of years that the administration is fully staffed.
The committee also approved leasing a temporary trailer for Central Office staff to work in during the summer. The current school will be closed next week but there are custodians and other staff members who need to be on site on a daily basis. In August, the administration will move into the trailer for the start of the school year because the new school building does not have space for offices.
The committee also finalized lease agreements with the two towns for the schools — another provision required during the transition. The annual lease will be for $1 between the district and the towns for Lanesborough and Williamstown elementary schools. Those leases will go before the Boards of Selectmen in both towns on June 25, just a few days before the leases need to be in place.
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