Faced with many options and uncertainty about prospective costs for what might be additional busing if changes were made, the Board of Education tabled setting the 2013-14 school year calendar until later this month.
The district must schedule 180 instructional days, but the decision is complicated by an early 2013 Labor Day -- Sept. 2 -- new state teacher assessment requirements that Superintendent Charles Maranzano said make two early in-service days necessary, and a board desire to move the 2014 spring break to the week before Easter to allow for instructional continuity before students in grades seven and eight take the annual state exams.
The board must also build in a few snow days, which traditionally has been done by adding days at the end of the school year, and then subtracting them if they have not been used, said board president Clifford Lundin.
Maranzano said the proposed 2013-14 calendar matches up with that proposed by the Sussex County school superintendents, which incorporates schedules to accommodate the county’s regional vocational-technical high school and consideration for athletic scheduling.
The county calendar calls for a spring break from April 18 to 25.
Board members, led by vice president Joanne Passerini, said that since raising test scores is a district goal, it makes more sense to have the students in school the week before they take the state exams. Switching the vacation week in April 2014 would have it take place from April 14 to 18. State exams for seventh and eighth graders are scheduled in 2014 between April 28 and May 1 and May 5 to 9.
Board secretary Theresa Sierchio said that that switch could potentially raise the district’s busing costs, since the vo-tech school would still be open and Hopatcong students would still be bused to that school.
Passerini and Lundin asked what that would be so, since students would be going to school and riding the buses in each of those weeks.
Sierchio said that because Hopatcong is part of a busing co-op, fewer local students on the buses could affect that the district pays.
This notion was noted on the county calendar, which says, “Changes to the calendar will increase the cost of the contract and may drive costs over the state per-pupil cost permitted amount. And thus place that transportation in jeopardy.”
Sierchio said she will research before the Feb. 25 meeting the potential busing costs of the switch and find out what other Sussex schools are doing with their spring breaks.
Maranzano said two teacher in-service days scheduled for Sept. 2 and 3 should be maintained. Under a new state law, new teacher evaluation are to be implemented beginning in September. Maranzano said those two in-service days will be necessary to fully explain the new procedures to teacher and staff. The introduction will be complicated, he said, by the fact that the state Board of Education won’t have the news rules finalized until Oct. 1, a month after the new school year begins.