Cape Elizabeth school calendar change generates mixed response

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CAPE ELIZABETH — When and how to take a break from school generated substantial response from residents and school staff this week.

School Superintendent Meredith Nadeau said about 200 families and staff presented opinions on a proposal to change winter and spring school break schedules in the 2012-2013 school year.

The deadline for responses to proposed vacation schedules was Wednesday, and Nadeau said she was still looking over the responses. She estimated there was about 55 percent support for maintaining traditional school breaks in February and April.

“We’ve had lots of people weigh in, it has been helpful in understanding what the community would like,” Nadeau said.

Public opinion was sought last month when Nadeau released preliminary schedules for the 2012-2013 school year. One featured the traditional February vacation during the week of the Presidents Day holiday, and a spring break running from April 16-19.

A second potential schedule featured a break from March 6-15, a span of Wednesday in one week through the Friday of the next week.

Both alternatives feature eight days of breaks and have no effect on the proposed June 19 date for the end of the school year.

Nadeau said the proposal stems from discussions with school staff who believed one longer break in March would be better for “educational continuity” than the current system of two breaks about six weeks apart.  She was not certain how long the current vacation structure has existed in Cape Elizabeth.

There are potential complications to switching the vacation format, including scheduling conflicts for students attending vocational classes at Portland Arts and Technology High School, Nadeau said.

Students taking classes there are not allowed to have more than nine days of scheduling conflicts including school breaks. Also, the February break is typically used for state high school athletic tournaments.

Nadeau said favorable responses for changing the schedule mentioned the continuity of learning and also noted some students don’t truly get breaks because of winter sports and spring practices. A March break would occur between the winter and spring sports season, she noted.

There is not yet a formal proposal to the School Board, and Nadeau said she is uncertain what she will recommend when the board meets later this month. She said she anticipates the policy will be set by the board next month.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net.

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Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.