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School Committee to Consider Reducing Length of Vacations

September 18, 2018

LOWELL -- In a bid to battle warm classroom temperatures, the Lowell School Committee will consider reducing two weeks of school vacation to one.

“We can’t keep doing things the way we’ve done them and expect different results,” said School Committee member Gerry Nutter, who proposed the change.

The topic is scheduled to come before School Committee Wednesday night in City Council Chambers. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.

Nutter’s motion would eliminate the weeklong February and April vacations and replace them with a one-week vacation in March.

Since students will still get Presidents and Patriots Day off, the district will net three extra days of classes, not five, according to Nutter.

He said these days will give the district a larger buffer for snow days and other school closings, hopefully allowing the district to avoid extending the school year too far into summer.

School continued into the last week of June this summer and started the last week of September. At a meeting last week, Paul Georges, President of United Teachers of Lowell, said almost half of respondents to a survey he sent out to educators the first week of school reported indoor temperatures 89 degrees or higher.

Nutter said he does not believe the district is under any contractual obligations to have two weeks of school vacation instead of one.

Also on the agenda:

* A motion submitted by Nutter requests the creation of a subcommittee that includes healthcare professionals to draft district policies for warm weather.

“When it gets really hot, we have issues,” Nutter said.

He said the subcommittee could create guidelines for school cancellation due to heat, since “last minute” decisions to call half days, as happened during the first week of school, can pose challenges for parents.

* School Committee member Jackie Doherty has requested a breakdown of money paid to the city by Comcast, commonly known as PEG funding.

Over the summer, the district laid off two of the four employees working at the Lowell High School TV Studio after the district received $108,000 to fund this program -- a sum less than the amount School Committee members were told to expect during budgeting, Doherty said.

“These are funds that are coming (in),” she said. “Really, the question is what is the city doing with that money?”

Over the years, millions have been spent to build the TV Studio, she said. She praised the educational opportunities the studio provides and the community benefits of its programming.

The motion also requests the district “explore” collaborating with Lowell Telecommunications Corporation (LTC).

* Interim Assistant Superintendent of Finance Billie Jo Turner will continue with her review of the district’s budget.

A draft report indicates $134,503 of last year’s bills were paid with this year’s money or have not yet been paid.

Due to insufficient funds in an account, $1.4 million of food service bills were held, according to the draft report.

Her update is also expected to cover transportation costs and the impact of several budgets that were severely reduced “without justification” this fiscal year.

Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins

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