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What you need to know for 01/16/2017

Calendar creativity needed to fit in first day of school

Calendar creativity needed to fit in first day of school

Most years, Labor Day weekend is the last true weekend of summer before the kids go back to school.
Calendar creativity needed to fit in first day of school
Rosendale Elementary School students exit the buses in front of the school in Niskayuna on the first day of classes Sept. 4, 2012.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

Most years, Labor Day weekend is the last true weekend of summer before the kids go back to school. This year, though, the Jewish New Year, staff development days and experimental orientations have all put a wrinkle in that familiar timeline.

In the Capital Region, the first day of school will fall on one of six days. Some kids will get an extra weekend of summer after Labor Day. Some younger siblings will start school a day or two after their elder siblings. Some kids will follow their first day of school with one day off and the next back on. As it turns out, planning the school calendar is no easy task.

“You have to fit in so many days every school year,” said Stuart Williams, a spokesman for Ballston Spa School District. “So we look at Labor Day, we plan our superintendent conference days before school starts, and we have to negotiate with the teacher’s union.”

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For all of these reasons, classes will begin at all six Ballston Spa schools on Friday, Sept. 6 — the day after Rosh Hashanah and three full days after Labor Day. But the schools certainly won’t be empty in the days leading up to classes. Like most districts, Ballston Spa is hosting a variety of orientations for students depending on their grade level.

Superintendent conference days will run Tuesday through Thursday. Williams said some districts schedule these conferences for just two days before classes begin and then try to fit the third day in later that month so that students don’t have to start school on a Friday.

“We changed that a while ago so that we take them at the beginning and end of the year without any interruptions,” he said.

Some districts close for the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah, while others don’t. It begins sundown Wednesday and extends through the day Thursday. Typically, the holiday has fallen toward the middle or end of September without interfering with the first week of school.

But since Labor Day is a federal public holiday and school officials like at least one day of staff development before classes begin, those districts that wished to observe the Jewish holiday were left with an awkward first week of school.

Class begins on Wednesday for students at the Saratoga Springs City School District. The next day school is closed for the holiday, but resumes Friday. In the rural Cobleskill-Richmondville Central School District, classes begin Wednesday for grades 1 through 6, as well as grade 9. Students have the next day off, and then all grade levels return Friday.

“The first calendar we adopted did not recognize the High Holy Day and I heard from some community members who said, ‘you know, I’d hate for my kid to have to decide between their faith and attending the first day of school,’ ” said District Superintendent Lynn Macan.

Cobleskill-Richmondville is also one of a few districts that have adopted a unique return to school for its students. Macan said the reason sixth- and ninth-graders start school before the rest of their middle and high school counterparts is to help ease the transition to a new building and atmosphere.

“The kids have an opportunity to get comfortable in a new setting before they have to be completely surrounded by kids that are older than them,” she said. “They can walk through their schedules, meet their new teachers and build a class environment. The kids, parents and teachers all love it.”

Niskayuna Central School District does the same thing, though classes are set to begin Monday, Sept. 9 — a full week after Labor Day — for grades 1 through 9. The next day, grades 10 through 12 arrive for their first day. Niskayuna also takes home the prize for having the latest first day of school in the Capital Region. Kindergartners in the district arrive on Wednesday, Sept. 11, for their first day.

“That’s only because parents come in with the kids on Monday and Tuesday so that the kids can play while the teachers orient the parents and tell them how the year will work,” said district spokesman Matt Leon.

In addition to Niskayuna, students at Albany and Bethlehem schools get an extra weekend of summer. Classes begin on Monday, Sept. 9, for them.

By far, though, the most popular first day of school in the Capital Region falls on Rosh Hashanah. Nearly two dozen districts across Fulton, Montgomery, Schenectady, Saratoga, Schoharie and Albany counties will open to students on Thursday.

Schenectady City School District joins a half dozen other public schools in the region in having the earliest start date. Students will begin their first day of classes on Wednesday, giving staff just one day after Labor Day to get their classrooms in order and departmental meetings out of the way before the hallways fill up.

The district is also planning its first-ever district-wide pep rally and welcome ceremony for staff on Tuesday. The high school cheerleaders and marching band will open the rally at 8:30 sharp in the gymnasium, followed by remarks from Superintendent Laurence Spring, games, prizes, student speakers and even a skit put on by staff, who will be wearing the school colors.

“It’s going to be so much fun,” said spokeswoman Karen Corona. “We’re all really excited about it.”

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