School Should Start After Labor Day! sign now

Dear Westport Board of Education,

We were shocked and dismayed to learn that the Board had recently voted to move the first day of school for the 2007-2008 school year to the week before Labor Day. Ever since we enjoyed the luxury of a September start, it has been something that each one of us cherished deeply. The opportunity to savor one last three-day weekend and collect ourselves before the beginning of yet another stress-filled year has always been an indispensable experience.

We understand that the Board may view our concerns as insignificant and may ask why a seemingly small change is so important to us. The answer is that we believe, as students who have spent many, many years in the Westport Public School System, that starting the school year in August is tantamount to rushing all involved (students, teachers, administrators and parents) into something that is meant to be taken slowly and deliberately, carefully and thoughtfully.

Many of us come back from camp and other long-term summer activities the week before Labor Day. We need the time before school starts to re-connect with our friends and family, make plans for the coming year and muse over our impending successes and hardships. There simply must be a break between the glorious, never-ending days of summer vacation and the hard shock that comes with that first day in the classroom. It would be a terrible day when best friends saw each other for the first time in eight weeks during Period 1 English.

Numerous Westport families use the break between camp and school to take long-needed vacations. The pause between the end of summer activities and the commencement of the new school year is used by many to take a trip too long to be accommodated by the short breaks we receive in February and April. Places that are too far away or have too much to charm to spend a mere week at can only be visited during that exclusive time at the end of August. The relaxing escape is too oft supplanted by the fast-paced do-everything vacation for the simple reason that with only a week to spare wed better get our moneys worth for those plane tickets!

There are many other reasons for our resistance to such an ostensibly trivial change. These are simply the most universal ones all of us have an important and personal basis for desiring the current start-of-school calendar to remain in place.

Finally, we, as long-time students in the Westport Public Schools, believe that at least a small effort should have been made to garner our opinion on the proposed, now enacted, change. Information regarding the Board of Educations specific agenda is hard enough to find and decipher, but that is not the main issue. Many of us are intimidated by the prospect of being at odds with such a powerful body of people, and find the idea of approaching the Board or speaking out at meetings frightful and alien. As students, we are certainly one of the, if not the, groups most influenced by the policy adopted by the Board. Would it not be possible for the Board to foster a closer relationship with a significant, yet significantly under-represented, percentage of its constituents? We ask this in light of the fact that no student at Staples had an inkling that such a change in schedule was likely to occur, let alone could have read about that possibility in the school newspaper of the same name. We believe that the apparent lack of action to learn students opinions represents, in effect, a disdain for them. Hopefully we are wrong, and hopefully in the future this issue will be remembered as a fleeting oversight.

We hope that the board will consider, at the earliest possibility, our request for re-consideration of the calendar change affecting the start of school. We hope, in earnest, that this incident will lead to a better understanding between those who legislate policy and those who have no choice but to accept it. Thanks in advance for your genuine deliberation on this matter.

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Jessica PooleBy:
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Town of Westport Board of Education

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