Confronted with an intermittent calendar quirk that has Labor Day falling on Sept. 7 next year, school officials appear inclined to start classes before the traditional holiday weekend.
A final vote on the matter, raised Monday night during a discussion of the 2020-21 school calendar, was deferred until one of two December meetings tentative scheduled by the school committee.
But school board members seemed to agree with Superintendent Amy Berdos that an early start was preferable to the alternative.
Under this scenario, students would return to school on Tuesday, Sept. 1 and attend classes that Wednesday and Thursday. This would be followed by a four-day holiday weekend, with classes resuming the following Tuesday, Sept. 8.
Berdos said the situation has arisen four times over the past 30 years – most recently in 2015 – with officials twice opting to resume classes before the holiday and twice afterwards.
Berdos conceded that either option is likely to inconvenience some local families, but said a post-Labor Day start would mean classes would end on June 21 at the earliest – and potentially as late as June 28 if snow days need to be made up.
Starting classes on Sept. 1, on the other hand, would allow for a June 16 release date.
Consequently, Berdos said that members of the local teachers’ union, as well as most administrators, favor starting classes the week before Labor Day.
“The optimal learning time is early in September rather than late in June,” she observed.
Mindful of family vacations and other obligations, school board chairwoman Tina Belanger recalled the board’s 2015 decision to start classes early prompted a heated reaction.
“The calendar switch was probably one of the most hotly debated issues – and the one I received the most phone calls about,” she said.
Belanger further noted that many families already are making plans for late-summer vacations or activities, and said the board should make a final determination sooner rather than later.
“The more notice we can give families the better,” she said.
Board member Richard Pearson pointed out that high school students participating in fall sports or band would be unaffected by a pre-Labor Day start, since practices resume in late August.
“If we have a recommendation from the [union] and administration that makes all the sense in the world, in my opinion,” Pearson said.
In a related matter, Berdos suggested broadening the official school calendar to incorporate a wide-ranging list of religious and ethnic observances.
These holidays – which include Jewish, Christian, Islamic and Hindu observances, as well as regional secular holidays like Evacuation Day – celebrate a range of cultures currently represented among Foxboro’s increasingly diverse school population.
These dates would not involve additional days off from school, Berdos explained, but incorporated them into the school calendar would raise awareness about different faith traditions and family customs.
At present, classes are not held on the following legal holidays and vacations: Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving break (two days), Martin Luther King Day and Memorial Day – along with Christmas break, winter break and spring break.
Responding favorably to Berdos’ recommendation, Belanger suggested that broadening the school calendar might help avoid scheduling conflicts on such dates.