As you know, this has been an unprecedented year of school cancellations due to weather. As of this week, I have had to close the district nine times this year, with the last day of school now scheduled to be Friday, June 29th. While it is increasingly less likely for snow events to close schools, other events could cause closures (remember the late October closures due to high winds and townwide power outages). Currently, the existing schedule cannot absorb another closure.
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) regulations require that students attend school for a minimum number of hours and that schools be in session for 180 days. There is a waiver process but it is not applicable in our current circumstance given that other options exist to accommodate the 180-day requirement. Those options include opening schools on Saturdays, canceling all or part of April vacation, and/or convening school on Good Friday (all of these options are explicitly suggested as options by DESE).
Consistent with my legal obligation to ensure that school is in session for 180 days I have considered all possible options and have established a recommended course of action to alter the current 2017-18 school calendar. I will be presenting my recommendation to the School Committee, who approve the school calendar, this coming Monday, March 19th at 5:30 PM (in the Learning Commons at Dracut High School). I will be recommending that the current school calendar be modified in the following ways:
- An early release school day will be scheduled for Good Friday, March 30th.
- School will be in session on two days that had originally been designated as vacation days: Thursday, April 19th, and Friday, April 20th.
- The last day of school will be Tuesday, June 26th.
I believe that this is the best possible construct to provide a contingency for any further requirements to close the district, in support of our legal obligations, and most importantly in support of student learning. I understand that some number of families may have made unalterable arrangements for the April vacation. Should the School Committee adopt my recommendation, I invite parents with such circumstances to contact their child’s principal directly.
In the collective memory of district employees, nobody can recall when this extraordinary step was ever taken, and I certainly hope this doesn’t occur again. I appreciate everyone’s flexibility in this unusual circumstance and look forward to a peaceful, uneventful spring that follows the old adage, “In like a lion, out like a lamb.”