New Milford school board balks at state-mandated calendar [Danbury News-Times]

January 14, 2015

New Milford’s Board of Education is bucking a state effort to standardize the yearly school calendar.

The Uniform Regional School Calendar, adopted last year by the General Assembly, divides the state into six regions, each with its own calendar for start dates, vacations and professional-development days and in-service training. The aim was to make it easier for school districts to share personnel and transportation resources and ultimately save the state money.

But on Monday, the Board of Education approved and signed a letter requesting the regional calendar be “repealed or significantly modified.”

The calendar must be implemented in the 2016-17 school year, with Aug. 31 as the school starting date. That date is one week later than New Milford schools would normally open, and the board sees it as putting its students seven days behind.

“To us, this seems like the state is hurting the education of our students,” the letter reads. “We are most upset with the mandatory start date and we strongly urge you to at least repeal that aspect of the law.”

Board member David Shaffer said the letter was necessary because “the state is gobbling up more and more responsibilities that used to be handled locally.”

He said students should receive the most preparation possible for standardized tests.

“We need to have our students prepared,” Shaffer said.

The board’s letter is being sent to the chairmen of the state Senate and House education committees and the deputy director and general counsel of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education.

At least one state legislator is already sympathetic.

State Sen.Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, the ranking member of the Senate Education Committee, is “vehemently” opposed to the calendar.

“I’m putting a proposal forward this session to eliminate that mandate,” Boucher said. “I believe the local school districts can regionally implement their own calendars. This is too much infringement.”

Patrice McCarthy, deputy director of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education, said Tuesday concerns such as New Milford’s were raised when the bill passed, “but the fact that calendars were developed regionally gave most districts a chance to have their concerns met.”

She said five flex days can be worked into a district’s calendar, which might help New Milford address test preparation or other issues.

“I don’t think a repeal is likely,” McCarthy said. “Perhaps another element of flexibility is possible to achieve.”