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Buffalo School Board polls parents on calendar controversy

More feedback is sought from Buffalo parents before the Board of Education weighs in on the latest controversy – this one over next year’s school calendar.

Students 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.

The School Board made no decision Wednesday, and instead directed parents to a survey on the district’s website seeking their input.

Parents can find the survey at buffaloschools.org.

Parents already have been giving board members an earful about the situation.

“Many of us have heard from parents, as well as teachers, regarding the calendar,” said School Board President Barbara Seals Nevergold. “We’re asking parents to go to the webpage and make their wishes known.”

Parents and students are caught in the middle of this power struggle between the school district and the Buffalo Teachers Federation, which have been wrangling over next year’s calendar for weeks, with no resolution.

Under terms of the teachers' contract, the school district is supposed to set 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 would report Sept. 3 and students the following day. Not only would there be a February break, but schools would be closed on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Friday before Memorial Day.

But the BTF objected.

That option, said BTF President Philip Rumore, 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.

As a compromise, the union suggested a 43-week calendar, which would allow for teacher training before the start of classes on Friday, Sept. 6, while still fitting in a February break.

“We’re not doing that,” said Darren Brown-Hall, the district’s chief of staff.

District officials worry kids may not bother to show up if the first day of school is on a Friday. The compromise doesn’t allow for days off on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and Friday before Memorial Day – two days which tend to have higher teacher absences.

That leaves the district with the 42-week option, which means students would start on Sept. 11 and forgo the February break.

“If we can’t reach an agreement with the union we have to go with the default calendar,” Brown-Hall said.

He said the district needs to make a decision, one way or another, by the end of June.

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

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