When the approved the calendar for the 2011-12 academic year, it exchanged one full inservice day for five delayed openings throughout the year.
The first is on Friday, Oct. 28, with the remaining dates on Dec. 2, Feb. 3, April 27 and June 1, all Fridays.
Dr. Michael LaSusa, the assistant superintendent in the district, said new regulations from the state include several mandatory two-hour training sessions, such as a training on the new anti-bullying policy (which staff will attend Monday), two-hour training on suicide prevention and a new model of professional development from the state level, which involved regular meetings throughout the school year for staff "to work on school-wide goals relating to student achievement," LaSusa said in an email to Chatham Patch.
These come in addition to department meetings, faculty meetings, grade-level meetings and team meetings, as well as any other state-mandated training, according to LaSusa.
"We believed that more recurring time in our calendar devoted to professional development was necessary," LaSusa said. "We felt that a stand-alone day in the spring was not sufficient to fully and best implement the obligations the state has placed upon us."
On the scheduled inservice days, schools will open two hours late, as they would when weather causes a delayed opening. The result, LaSusa said, will be for teachers to meet the state's requirements "without a material reduction in instructional time."
Nicole McGuire, a Chatham Borough resident whose daughter attends , teaches full-time in Union and her husband also works full-time. Her father often takes care of her daughter before school before he, too, goes to work.
She said the prospect of finding before-school care for her daughter is a financial hardship, and taking time off of work is not a possibility. She also said she did not think there was adequate notice of the delayed openings, since she did not see the first one until she turned her school calendar to October.
"When I contacted Work Family Connection, there were no plans for any childcare," McGuire said. She also said the parent liaison was unaware of the change. "The economy's changing. ... It's getting near the end of the year. You have concerns that you have end-of-the-year deadlines, and employers are going to be looking at Friday [attendance and punctuality.]"
While some families have one parent who stays at home, McGuire said among the moms she knows several have returned to work recently. "I think with this economy, people are having to go back to work," she said. "That change needs to be addressed."
McGuire said she reached out to LaSusa, who responded that school administrators negotiated the five delayed openings with teachers for this year and they would consider making a change for the following year. When Chatham Patch reached out to him via email, he said Thursday the district hopes to have a solution for parents by the end of next week.
"We certainly recognize that this creates ... [days which are] not typical and [require] alternative arrangements for parents. We also recognize that this poses a larger problem for those parents who do not have other options for child care on the mornings of the delayed openings," LaSusa said.
Michael Farr, the site coordinator for Work Family Connection for the district and several other area districts, emailed Chatham Patch after this article was published. He said he and LaSusa had recently reached an arrangement for all parents not currently enrolled with Work Family Connection to participate in child care on the inservice days. The cost is $15 for before school care and $25 for after school care per day, plus a registration fee. He also said there will be no additional cost for those families already enrolled with Work Family Connection.