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Lowell Schools to Consider Consolidating Vacations

September 20, 2018

LOWELL -- Consolidating February and April vacation to one week in March may face opposition, but members of the School Committee believe it’s worth a look, as the district plots its response to extreme classroom temperatures.

“I think the reality is our school year is becoming more and more of a problem at the beginning and the end,” said School Committee member Connie Martin.

“There’s an impact to the way we schedule our time and based on current weather patterns we can probably anticipate in the future, we’re probably going to have to make some changes.”

Martin suggested considering other options as well, like extending the length of the school day to meet the state required classroom hours in less calendar days.

Reports of freezing classrooms plagued the district last winter and soaring school temperatures at the end of last school year and the beginning of this school year, prompted closures.

School Committee member Gerry Nutter’s motion to consolidate two weeks of vacation during the spring semester to one could shave off days at the end of the school year while still meeting the state’s 180-day minimum, he said.

The board unanimously approved looking into consolidation with additional input from teachers.

Under the suggestion. students would still get Presidents and Patriots Day off, meaning the move would save three extra days, not five.

School Committee members Dominik Lay and Robert Hoey Jr. urged polling teachers on their thoughts, which Acting Superintendent of Schools Jeannine Durkin said she would pursue.

According to Durkin, extending the school day would also legally meet state requirements. At the end of last school year a poll sent out to teachers asking their thoughts on extending the day for a short period of days to end the school year earlier received an overwhelmingly -- 84 percent -- positive response, she said,

The district did not pursue this option last school year after difficulties coordinating with transportation, according to Durkin.

School Committee member Andre Descoteaux said he was skeptical of extending the school day.

“By the last period of the day kids are toast. By the last period (of an extended) day, they’re going to be burnt toast,” he said.

A second motion by Nutter to create a task force that would create district policy for extreme temperature days met with support. The motion proposed appointing Operations and Maintenance Director Rick Underwood, principals and representatives from the School Committee, health professionals, United Teachers of Lowell and City Department of Public Works to the group.

Descoteaux said the district and task force should move quickly to create this policy.

“I think we need to address that sooner rather than later,” he said.

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