After receiving backlash to a 2023-2024 calendar draft featuring 22 shortened school days, the Board of Education has revealed a revised version, with only 12 half-days.

But to decrease the number of shortened days, the board cut nine of 10 curriculum days scheduled for staff throughout the school year. 

The first calendar draft, which passed on first reading at the Board of Education’s Feb. 1 meeting, included 187 staff days and 183 student days. It also featured 22 shortened days for students. In the 2022-2023 calendar, there are 18 shortened days scheduled. 

The shortened days are about five hours long, about an hour and a half shorter than full-length school days.

At the March 1 meeting, board members presented a revised version of the calendar, and approved it with a second reading. The new calendar features the same number of staff and student days, but includes only 12 shortened days. 

Six of the shortened days are for parent-teacher conferences — two in October, two in December and two in March. Three of the days lead into holidays — before Thanksgiving break, winter recess and Memorial Day weekend. Two of the days are the final days of the school year, a tradition in the district. And the final shortened day is for staff to hold curriculum meetings in February.

To reduce the shortened days, the new calendar eliminated all but one of the curriculum half-days scheduled for teachers during the 2023-2024 school year. The draft presented at the Feb. 1 meeting featured 10 curriculum days, one in each month students are in school. The 2022-2023 calendar also features 10 curriculum half-days. The new 2023-2024 calendar also cuts out a shortened day before Presidents Day weekend.

Principals informed the board that the one remaining curriculum day, in February 2024, “was really important in terms of preparing for things that are coming up in the school year,” said board member Brian Fleischer, chair of the board’s calendar committee.

The district “will have the capacity to maintain our current level of professional development,” David Cantor, the district’s executive director of communications and community engagement, said Monday. 

“Thanks to our school community stakeholders for working with us to balance the need to support teachers with less disruption to learning time and family schedules,” Cantor said.

Cathy Kondreck, Montclair Education Association president, did not respond to a message sent last week to her union email address asking about the impact of the cut in curriculum days. 

The calendar changes were made based on feedback from community members, district leadership, school leaders, the Montclair Education Association and school staff, Fleischer said.

“We heard strongly from the community on the need to address the large number of abbreviated days for two very big reasons,” he said. “First and foremost, the importance of ensuring that we have all of the instructional time that our kids need and deserve. And second, the hardship that is sometimes created for families and caregivers with a significant number of early dismissals.”

While revisions do not include every suggestion and idea that the board received from the community, every message received by board members was discussed, Fleischer said. 

“I want everybody to know, everybody who reached out to us, we shared the feedback,” he said. “We thought about it, we deliberated on it, and we appreciate everybody's input and suggestions.”

Junior Jacob Kugelmass, a student representative on the board, said he was looking forward to the 2023-2024 schedule.

“As a student, of course, I do enjoy getting out of school early,” Kugelmass said at the March 1 meeting. “But I will admit there are certainly disruptions to the flow of learning, and so it does make sense why we need less abbreviated days.”

Parent June Raegner said at the meeting she was thrilled with the new calendar and the “more reasonable number” of shortened days. She also suggested that the district consider adopting late-start days. 

“I think it's a new progressive, interesting idea,” Raegner said. “It might help with our hopeful eventual transition to some later start times. It might be more helpful for some families.”

The conversations and deliberation around the first draft of the calendar are “what a first reading is all about,” Fleischer said. 

“That's what we are committed to as a board, and you've heard from my colleagues as well about our commitment to collaboration and transparency,” he said. “I think this was a great example of that.”

The calendar also has three built-in snow days that, if not used, could be used for days off in the spring, Fleischer said.