BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - A longer mid-winter weekend was created when the Bernards Township Board of Education added Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday as a school holiday at its Aug. 28 meeting. The holiday falls on Monday, Jan. 15, 2018, during this school year.

The addition of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday to the school calendar has been the subject of much discussion at board meetings in recent years, especially since Bernards Township schools are one of the rare districts not to schedule the holiday as a day off from school. However, school officials and parents have also weighed the addition of too many school holidays to the calendar against extending the school year too long in June.

Some schools and classes have used the day to discuss King's legacy on the holiday, particularly the annual assembly held for eighth graders at the William Annin Middle School. However, supporters of adding the holiday to the calendar had noted that such activities could continue on another school day even if students have the actual holiday off from school.

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The school board a few years ago cut back the district's traditional weeklong February school vacation in order to shorten the school year, which was often concluding during the last week of June.

The addition of Monday, Jan. 15, as a day off pushes back the end of the school year, but not the high school graduation ceremony date, by one day.

The board also introduced a revised policy that will allow first-grade teachers to produce three report cards per year, instead of four, if desired. The proposal is on the school website and public comments will be accepted at the next board meeting. The change would allow teachers to devote more time to producing report cards that give more data to parents, said Superintendent Nick Markarian.

The board revised the calendar for the current school year and for 2018-19. It also adopted a 2020-21 school calendar, although Board President Beverly Darvin Cwerner noted a calendar could be changed at any time.

 The board also shortened four school days for staff in-service time. The dates are Oct. 4, Nov. 8, Jan. 17 and March 14.

The board approved three research projects.

One by Wilkes University undergraduate Christina Gambino, a former district student, would study concussions in sports, particularly football.

Drew University’s Jill Stedronsky was okayed to do graduate work studying best instructional methods in reading.

Dr. Brian Chu, of Rutgers University’s Department of Clinical Psychology, was reauthorized to monitor attendance on students who refuse to go to school.

The board approved hiring Statistical Forecasting LLC to study demographic trends for $24,000.