Sunday, Apr 21st

Parents Ask for Fewer Half Days, an Earlier Graduation Date and Additional Holidays for Upcoming School Calendars

schollcalendargraphicShould Scarsdale reduce the number of half school days? Almost 500 citizens signed a petition to say yes! Community members turned out in person and via zoom at the first meeting of the school board to lend their support to two big proposed changes to the school calendar: decreasing the number of early dismissal days and adding holidays to the existing calendar. The conversation was a follow-up to an earlier discussion at a December meeting of the Board of Education.

Helene Gray of Secor Road kicked things off by speaking in support of moving graduation day to a more favorable date. She noted that holding graduation a week earlier is preferable for siblings and students who attend or work in camps and other summer programs that may start before graduation. In addition, scheduling graduation on a Thursday or Friday would be easier for out of town relatives who wish to attend and there is evidence from many neighboring districts that earlier graduations are possible, citing Rye, Bronxville and others as examples.

Chelsea Wang, a working parent of two girls voiced her support of the petition to reduce the number of early dismissal days. She said that neighboring districts have fewer half days. Scarsdale has 13 on the calendar, which are a hardship for parents, especially those with two parents working outside the home. Finding childcare on these days is burdensome, and children are also miss out on instruction. Her sentiments were echoed by a number of other parents, including Reed Miller, a full-time at home father and part-time lawyer and Dianna Cohen, a Heathcote parent. Ms. Cohen emphasized the need for consistency for children and pointed out that Scarsdale is unique in considering adding additional holidays while continuing to maintain the 13 half-days. Via Zoom, Maryanne Lee reiterated that these early dismissal days are a hardship for parents, a concern shared by other Zoom attendees. Molly Tu of Putnam Road also expressed a hope that the inclusion of Lunar New Year, Diwali and Eid in the calendar would not be an either/or proposition with reducing the early dismissals. Tian Dong, a fifth grader at Greenacres school spoke eloquently on his support for adding Lunar New Year to the school calendar. As the child of Chinese immigrants, Tian would like to be able to celebrate the way his parents did growing up, without worrying about missing school assignments.

Dr. Drew Patrick supported moving graduation to a more favorable date. Later in the meeting he gave an update on the calendar proposals. He noted that based on the many communications he has received via surveys, emails, and petitions, there are certain themes: reducing the number of early dismissal days, making the December break two weeks (popular with international families) or shorter (popular with those who can’t take two weeks off for vacation and prefer their kids to be in school), closing school for Passover and starting school after Labor Day.

As next steps, the administration will continue to have dialogue with the STA and other unions. Dr. Patrick reminded those attending that the school board has no authority to propose a calendar. The school board’s job is to respond to the administration’s calendar. He expected to bring a calendar proposal to the Board that includes the parent teacher conference dates to the January 30th meeting.

Board member Jessica Resnick-Ault asked for the rationale for the positioning of the April break. Patrick answered that it is traditionally the week leading up to Easter Sunday with Good Friday as a Civil Service holiday. Resnick-Ault suggested that scheduling the break during the Passover week that includes Good Friday would save a vacation day. Dr. Patrick commented that the half days for Parent-Teacher Conferences are contractual.

Resnick-Ault mentioned that for some students, the half-days can be an opportunity for socializing that they may not have with their schedules, and that perhaps the schools and PTA could work together to create group activities that would also help working parents.

Take a look at five calendar scenarios for the 2023-24 school year here.

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