School Committee OKs 2021-2022 Calendar; Late Start on Sept. 9 Due To Construction, Religious Concerns

Photo: The calendar for the 2021-22 school year

It will be a later start than anticipated for the next school year as the Belmont School Committee unanimously approved the 2021-2022 school calendar, one which nearly all in the committee and district is hoping is a return to “normal.”

The delay of more than a week in the start date for the nearly 4,800 students is due to a pair of events; the opening of the high school wing of the new Belmont Middle and High School and observance of a Jewish High Holiday.

While existing district policy calls for the school year to start the Wednesday before the holiday when Labor Day occurs later than Sept. 3, Superintendent John Phelan told the committee the first day of classroom study for students – COVID variants pending – will move from Sept. 1 to Sept. 8, as “we need to consider starting after Labor Day for the construction project.”

The committee also voted unanimously to push the start back an extra day to Thursday, Sept. 9 in deference to the final day of Rosh Hosannah, the Jewish New Year. The vote runs counter to School Committee policy passed in 2016 after a contentious debate to no longer celebrate Christian and Jewish religious observances as official district holidays.

But Committee member Amy Checkoway, who sought the extra day delay, the holiday comes on the important first day of school in what she hopes is “a normal-ish year.”

Committee Chair Andrea Prestwich noted that the collision of one of the “most important Jewish holidays” and the opening of the school year creates “a perfect storm” of competing pressures on many families in Belmont.

While she supported the existing language not to favor religions over others on the calendar, Prestwich said she changed her mind because it is the very first day of school. Taking time off on that day would be more disruptive than any other day of the year, she said.

Committee member Michael Crowley said because a significant number of teachers and students when they all are needed to be in the classroom.

“It’s just not the best choice for a first day of school,” said Crowley, one of the five votes in favor of starting schools two days further down the calendar.

Highlights of the ’21-’22 calendar are:

  • The start of school for grades 1-12 takes place on Thursday, Sept. 9 with kindergarten half days on Friday, Sept. 10 and Monday, Sept. 13.
  • Winter recess will begin on Friday, Dec. 24 with a return to school on Jan. 3, 2022.
  • The week long February recess will take place the week of Feb. 21 and
  • Spring recess April 18 – 22
  • The last day (which includes the five snow days) will be tentatively Monday, June 27.
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