BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The Board of Education (BOE) unanimously approved the school calendar for the 2017-2018 school year at its Dec. 1 meeting. Prior to the approval Superintendent Judith Rattner explained some reasoning behind the calendar formulation.
Rattner explained that the approved calendar is “a hybrid” based upon parental feedback of a few calendar options. She explained some guiding principles in formulating the calendar. First of all the starting day of the school year should be as soon as “practical” after Labor Day. This year the first school day was a half day and it worked well, she said. The same will take place in September 2017, when the schools open on Wednesday after Labor Day. The afternoon will be used for professional development for the staff. The second guiding principle is to fit all professional development days into the first two months of the school year.
The district always observes these Federal Holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, President’s Day, Memorial Day. The religious holidays, Rosh Hashanah (1st day), Yom Kippur, Good Friday, are also observed. In September 2017 Rosh Hashanah falls on a Thursday. Rattner explained that the next day, Friday, will be an off day for students since many families might skip the school day anyway to make it a four day weekend. Thus this day will be a professional development day for teachers.
The district observes Columbus Day, Veteran’s Day and Martin Luther King Day when possible. In the 2017-2018 school year the students will have early dismissal on Columbus Day while the staff will take part in professional development in the afternoon. In 2017 Veterans Day falls on a weekend, but on Martin Luther King Day (1/15/18) the schools will be closed.
The school will also be closed for the two days of the NJEA Convention in November. The district tries to schedule the spring break to coincide with both Easter and Passover, if possible. In 2018 the spring break will fall on the last week of March. The district also builds at least four snow days into their schedule. The district is avoiding Mondays and Fridays as high school graduation days. In 2018 the graduation day will be Tuesday, June 19.
During the public comments session, a parent said that she was concerned since the schools were open during the Election Day on Nov. 8 while the district school buildings are also used as polling places. Board President Doug Reinstein explained that the district has had talks with the municipality about the polling places. However, it appears that there are no other viable places as polling places in town. It may be a possibility that some schools, close to downtown, may not be used as polling places in the future. However, Reinstein was not optimistic that all school buildings would have an alternative polling location. Rattner was not in favor of closing the schools on election day as Thursday and Friday of that same week will be days off due to the NJEA Convention.
In other news, Reinstein brought attention to the spirit that many members of the school community have shown recently. He especially pointed out the case of a 10-year-old boy suffering from cancer. He does not live in Berkeley Heights, but some of his family members do. The Berkeley Heights community has shown support for the boy and his family through various fundraising events. Similarly the school community has rallied behind staff members stricken by cancer providing support in difficult times.