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Late start, no winter break on the table for Buffalo schools next year

Public school students in Buffalo would not start classes until Sept. 11 – more than a full week after Labor Day – and would lose their traditional February break under a district calendar being considered for the 2019-20 school year.

Neither are likely to sit well with parents.

But the Buffalo Board of Education is expected to consider that option after weeks of unresolved wrangling between the school district and the Buffalo Teachers Federation over next year’s school calendar.

Both sides are pointing fingers.

“We usually agree to these calendars in March so everybody can plan,” said Philip Rumore, BTF president. “Now, they’ve dragged this out so long and here we are in May.”

One of the hang-ups is over bringing teachers in for professional development at the end of August before the school year begins.

“Teachers came in for professional development during the last week of August in the 2017-18 school year," said Darren Brown-Hall, chief of staff for Buffalo Public Schools. "But Phil is adamantly against it now.”

Here’s what’s been going on behind the scenes:

Under terms of the teachers contract, the school district sets a 42-week calendar, but it proposed one for next year with 44 weeks to fit in two training days for teachers at the end of August.

Teachers then would report Sept. 3 and students the following day. Not only would there be a February break, but schools also would be closed on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Friday before Memorial Day. The last day of class would be June 25.

The BTF objected. That option spreads teacher salary over 44 weeks instead of 42 and educators with a second job during the summer would lose out on some of that income, Rumore said.

Instead, the union suggested a 43-week calendar – which is what the two sides agreed to for this year and in past years, Rumore said. There would be two days of teacher training after Labor Day and staff would report Sept. 5. Classes would start the next day – Friday, Sept. 6. Students would still get their February break and the last day of class would still be June 25.

“We’re willing to meet them halfway,” Rumore said.

But district officials said that won’t work, either. They worry kids may not bother to show up if the first day of school is on a Friday. And the compromise doesn’t allow for days off on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Friday before Memorial Day – two days which tend to have higher teacher absences, Brown-Hall said.

“We’re trying to avoid that,” he said.

Since the two sides have not been able to reach a resolution, district officials are expected on Wednesday to present the School Board with the option of a 42-week calendar, which means students would begin school on Sept. 11 and forgo a February break.

Brown-Hall said the School Board may decide to discuss the issue further and get more feedback from parents before making a decision.

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