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Students get more days off next year
MONROE - The Monroe school district will continue to have early release Mondays next year, but some tweaking of the calendar is bringing back a few no-school days throughout the year.

The Monroe Education Association polled teachers about the school calendar for 2014-15 and endorsed a switch away from a calendar that this year had 72 straight school days scheduled between winter and spring breaks.

This is the first year the Monroe district opted to have early release on most Mondays in lieu of inservice days for teachers throughout the school year.

Without those scheduled inservice days, students could have attended school from Jan. 2, when they returned from winter break, though April 11, when school lets out for spring break. Inclement weather this year caused school to be canceled for several days during that time period.

James Cassidy, co-president of the Monroe Education Association and a social studies teacher at Monroe High School, said that MEA took verbal responses from teachers and the union shared those sentiments with district leaders.

"It's not necessarily that teachers need a day off," Cassidy said. "We thought the students may need a break. Next year there will be some time off. That really is a positive."

Next school year, teachers will have one extra day of in-service before school begins Sept. 2.

The district will not have school on Halloween, Oct. 31. Christmas break is scheduled for Dec. 24 to Jan. 4.

Superintendent Cory Hirsbrunner said the district considered the long stretch of school days this year when building the calendar for next year.

"Next year is kind of an ideal calendar that doesn't come very often," Hirsbrunner said. In 2014-15, Jan. 2 will also be a no-school day; New Year's Day falls on a Thursday, and Hirsbrunner said it doesn't make sense to resume classes on a Friday.

Next year's spring break is set for March 14 to 22, a month earlier than this year's.

The Monday after Easter in 2015 will also be a no-school day.

The last day of school for the 2014-15 school year, barring make-up days for inclement weather, is set for June 5.

Cassidy said the MEA hasn't polled teachers yet on the early release days and how teachers are using that time for meetings and aligning curriculum to Common Core standards. The MEA plans to formally survey teachers on the early release days at the end of the year.

Cassidy said he couldn't speak for all teachers as union president, but he personally likes the change to early release Mondays.

"It gives us as a department time to sit down and discuss things we don't usually have time for during the week," he said.

Hirsbrunner said having early release days Mondays has allowed teachers to work with others at different grade levels and has been beneficial in setting educational goals and getting instant feedback.

"They (teachers) have been able to set short-term goals," Hirsbrunner said. "It used to be that they would have inservice just once a month."

There was consideration given to switching the early release days to Wednesday. Hirsbrunner said the district didn't want to break up the learning of 4K students, who attend school for half days four days per week. With the switch to early release Mondays this school year, 4K students attend school Tuesday through Friday; previously, 4K was held Monday through Thursday.