GREENWICH, CT — The first day of school will be a little later than originally planned for Greenwich Public Schools students this fall.
During a special Board of Education meeting held Thursday night over Zoom, board members voted unanimously to start school this year on Wednesday, Sept. 9. The calendar originally called for students to start school a week prior, on Sept. 2, but board members and district officials have decided to use those days to give teachers and staff more time to prepare for students' planned return to school buildings.
Orientation will take place a day prior on Tuesday, Sept. 8. (To sign up for Greenwich breaking news alerts and more, click here.)
During a presentation at the start of the meeting, Superintendent Toni Jones said the new calendar allows teachers to return to school at the end of August and utilize the entire first week of September.
Jones said the calendar adjustment is the result of a waiver granted by the state that allows schools to reduce the school year to 177 days instead of 180, however the three days must be taken off at the start of the school year.
"We were able to capitalize on those three days that the state has given us as a waiver," Jones said during the meeting, "so it basically turned [the three days] from instruction to professional development days."
As a result, students will have school on Oct. 12. Board Chair Peter Bernstein said that day had originally been selected as a professional development day, as many families typically visit colleges during that weekend.
Jones noted that delaying the start of school start made the 2020-21 calendar "a little smoother."
Many board members were glad to see students will be returning to school after the Labor Day holiday weekend.
"I'm so happy to see this," Bernstein said, noting the calendar adjustment was "exactly what parents have wanted for a long time."
Vice-Chair Kathleen Stowe agreed the change was positive.
"I was always jealous of my colleagues in New York who didn't come back [to school] until after Labor Day," Stowe said, "so I think we should make this the beginning of a new trend."
When the board met for a special meeting Monday, Jones said teachers will need time, prior to students' return, to become familiar with a number of state-mandated coronavirus safety protocols, as well as to train on new programs and set up their rooms, among other tasks.
"We have so much professional learning to do when we come back in the fall," Jones said during Monday's meeting.
Jones had originally proposed starting school on Friday, Sept. 4, however many board members said there seemed to be little value in starting school the day before the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend.
"I think that our staff definitely needs time to readjust, set up their classrooms and really learn all the new protocols," Board Secretary Karen Hirsh said Monday. "I know that there's going to be a lot of new questions and concerns from our educators that we need to address at that time."
Board member Peter Sherr said the Friday before Labor Day would likely be a "low attendance day," and agreed teachers could use that extra time to prepare. He also said he would like to see an employee calendar that is "a little more front-loaded" to benefit teachers.
A video of Thursday's meeting can be viewed in full here.