CHATHAM – For the first time, Monomoy Regional School District officials are considering starting school before Labor Day this September.
The new school year has traditionally begun the day after Labor Day, both in the Monomoy District and in the Chatham and Harwich schools before regionalization. This September, Labor Day falls on Sept. 7, as late in the year as possible. If school begins Tuesday, Sept. 8, it will end on June 30, with the usual five snow days built into the schedule.
That leaves no margin for error, said Superintendent of Schools Scott Carpenter. The current contract with the district's teachers union requires that school end by June 30. If there are more than five snow days, students would have to attend classes during April vacation or possibly even Saturdays.
“Neither of those are winning options,” he said. If classes start Monday, Aug. 31, the school year would end on June 24, or up to five days earlier depending on the number of snow days.
The union contract also requires that classes begin after Labor Day. Carpenter said he informally talked to teachers about next fall's schedule and most preferred to start earlier; the union has since voted to support the earlier start date, he said.
Carpenter sent an email to families and caregivers Monday with a link to an online poll seeking feedback on the earlier start date. The school committee discussed the date at its last meeting and will likely vote on the schedule change next Tuesday, he said. The poll closes tomorrow, Feb. 7.
Last year the Monomoy district had no snow days, which was “a bit of a novelty” and out of the ordinary, Carpenter said. “Snow day” is a bit of a misnomer, he added; the Monomoy schools are just as likely to close due to a power outage following a late-season hurricane or a northeaster as much as a heavy snowfall.
“Here it oftentimes isn't snow, it's the ramifications of a big storm,” he said.
Some local school districts have flexible start dates built into teacher contracts, Carpenter said, and have begun classes prior to Labor Day. The Monomoy teachers contract expires this year, he said, and allowing an earlier start date may be something both sides want to examine as they head into negotiations. The start date will be an issue again in 2021, when Labor Day falls on Sept. 6.
Even if school begins prior to Labor Day, students will still have a four-day holiday weekend from Friday to Monday, Carpenter said.