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Just weeks before year ends, 2 JP schools announce how they will make up class time

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  June 6, 2012 01:51 PM

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Two Jamaica Plain schools announced Tuesday when they will make up 12 hours of learning time that has been owed since the schools’ openings were delayed last September.

Students from the James W. Hennigan Elementary School and the West Zone Early Learning Center – except kindergarteners – are required to attend classes on Monday, June 18, when other Boston schools will be closed, according to a letter to families. As scheduled, a normal full day of school will be held on June 19.

On June 20 and June 21, instead of a half day of school, all students at the two schools are required to attend a full day of classes.

The two schools, housed in the same building in Jamaica Plain, started their academic years on Sept. 12 -- two school days after other Boston students began classes. The schools’ openings were delayed in order to complete work to remove trace amounts of a toxin in the building’s old, flaking paint. More than 650 K-5 students attend the two schools.

Boston.com reported on Friday that leaders of the Boston Teachers Union blamed the Boston Public School Department for not having scheduled the make-up time – amounting to two school days – sooner. School department officials said the union’s request for additional compensation for staff had slowed an announcement.

In the letter sent to families Tuesday -- with less than two and a half weeks remaining in the academic year -- Hennigan Principal Maria Condon and West Zone ELC principal Kathleen Sullivan outlined how the missed instruction time will be made up.

The letter to parents directs anyone with questions to contact the Hennigan school office at 617-635-8264 or the West Zone ELC office at 617-635-8275.

“Thank you for your patience this year as we have finalized these schedule changes,” the letter says.

With no snow days or other cancellations this academic year, Boston schools are scheduled to hold the final day of classes on June 21.

Richard Stutman, the teachers union president, called scheduling days this late in the academic year “foolish and counterproductive.”

“These hours meant something months ago,” he said last week. “In late June, kids have other things on their minds,” like playing outdoors and the looming summer recess.

Matthew Wilder, a spokesman for the school department, said the district's academic calendar "doesn't have a lot of flexibility in it during the school year," and that "the only real solution" was to make-up the learning time near the end of the school year.

“This isn’t really a normal situation,” he said last week. "Ideally, we would have liked to announce it already.”

“We recognize the end of the school year is fast approaching,” he said. “We have an obligation to make sure students get 180 days and get these hours in.”

E-mail Matt Rocheleau at mjrochele@gmail.com.
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