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North Suburban News

Woburn Looking to Change Start of School Year

Jan 27, 2019 09:37PM ● By Dan Marra

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WOBURN – First day of school for Woburn students will again be after Labor Day for the upcoming school year. Teachers head back to their classrooms Sept. 3, while students arrive Sept. 5.

However, the city could be moving forward with a plan to move the first day of school to before Labor Day. A number of neighboring districts already have students begin before September, including Reading, Stoneham and Wilmington.

The committee voted to set up a working group comprised of teachers, school committee members, administrators and a parent that will have a recommendation of when to start the 2020 school year by April. The committee discussed but made no decisions as to school start times.

But there was some in the school committee who felt Woburn should have already made the decision to start school before Labor Day, as the delay is hurting Woburn students.

“This is becoming a recurring nightmare,” said Woburn School Committee member, John Wells. “This is a clear example of how we could help our students. We’re essentially taking four days away from students and they won’t get back. This is very frustrating that we can’t get a handle with starting before Labor Day.”

Wells made the argument that if the discussion revolved around athletics, there would be more urgency among the committee, as athletes would have four less days of practice than their opponents.

According to Woburn school committee member, Patricia Chisholm, this is the fourth year in a row the school committee has discussed changing the start of school.

“We made a recommendation to the superintendent last year to come back for a permanent solution before Labor Day,” Chisholm said. “We voted to do it, we wanted to do it, there was a decision to do it and now we’re not going to be doing that.”

One of the reasons Woburn didn’t move forward last year with the changes had to do with the teacher’s contract, said school committee member, Joseph Demers. According to Demers, a survey was taken among Woburn teachers and 51 percent of the teachers were opposed to moving the start of the school year.

“With the contract negotiations becoming pretty protracted last year, [the first day of school] was not seen as something to unilaterally make a decision on,” Demers said.

And while some in the committee, like Ellen Crowley, wants to move the start of the school year to ahead of Labor Day, she recognized the difficulty of making that change now.

“We can’t drastically alter how we do the schedule in the middle of January,” Crowley said. “I asked to put this on the agenda for the first meeting and it wasn’t put on. Now it’s the middle of January, we’re not going to vote to all of a sudden change for schools to begin before Labor Day and undermine the expectations of parents.”

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