Parents of students in Duxbury schools can now make their Labor Day plans. Responding to some parents’ request that the 2004-2005 school year start after the September 6 holiday, the school committee explored that option but voted instead to adopt a calendar year similar to the present one that begins in August. Parents of students in Duxbury schools can now make their Labor Day plans.

Responding to some parents’ request that the 2004-2005 school year start after the September 6 holiday, the school committee explored that option but voted instead to adopt a calendar year similar to the present one that begins in August.

At Wednesday’s school committee meeting, Superintendent Eileen Williams presented the members with three possible calendar options for the next school year.  All three options differed in their start and finish dates and accounted for a 180-day regular school year and a 185-day year to meet a state recommendation that schools factor in five snow days.

The first option presented by Williams brought teachers in on August 30 and 31 with students arriving on September 1, five days before Labor Day.  This would end the school year on June 17 at 180 days and June 24 at 185 days.

The second option brought teachers in on September 1 and 2, giving them a long Labor Day holiday with students arriving on the Tuesday after the holiday, September 7.  This suggestion was met with applause from the audience until Williams revealed that it would also mean a 180-day year would end on June 22 and a 185-day year on June 29, which then elicited groans.

Williams added that by state law, the school schedule could not go past June 30, which this option bumped right up against.

The third option brought teachers in after Labor Day, September 7 and 8, and students in on September 9.  The problem with this option, said Williams, was that a 180-day year would end on June 24, meaning that with a weekend factored in, the schools could only schedule four snow days with the last day being June 30.

Committee member John Magnarelli said while there was concern about starting school in August and cutting the summer short, going further into June could cause an “automatic shut-off valve for students and teachers” after June 1.

Committee member Paul Desmond agreed, saying that going further into June “got rough and tumble with the warm weather.”

A few parents also weighted in, including Anne Ward who suggested cutting a school vacation week as a compromise and M.L. Nichols, who inquired why there was an issue regarding a 185-day schedule when the town had “only one snow day in six years.”

After further debate, Magnarelli made a motion to adopt option one, starting before Labor Day, which was defeated by a vote of 3-2 with he and John Heinstadt voting in favor.

Committee member Paul Desmond then made a motion to adopt option two ñ starting after Labor Day ñ but after listening to more parent comments, reconsidered his motion and said he would instead vote in favor of option one.

After Desmond’s motion to adopt the post-Labor Day calendar was defeated, Magnarelli made another motion to adopt the calendar option starting on September 1 and ending between June 17 and 24.  This motion was unanimously approved.

Discussion on the school calendar also included comments from planning board member Aboud Al-Zaim regarding the committee’s decision to eliminate all religious holidays from being listed on the school calendar.  In November, the committee decided that instead of listing the myriad of different religious and cultural holidays, they would list none instead.

Al-Zaim, a Muslim, said that all holidays should be recognized so both teachers can better understand some students’ absences as well as promoting cultural diversity.  He also said that the calendar issued was essentially a Christian calendar with vacations around Easter and Christmas as well as no school on Good Friday.

Duxbury High School junior Leila El-Amine then read a letter she authored to Williams in which she discussed being a Muslim student and how it felt to have her holidays misunderstood by teachers and fellow students.

At one point, El-Amine broke into tears reliving the embarrassment of having to constantly explain to teachers and others her absences from school to observe Muslim holy days and asked that they again be listed on the calendar.

When El-Amine finished her letter, a majority of the audience gave her a standing ovation.  Many members of the committee commended El-Amine for her passion on the issue and Williams said that she and the student discussed how to educate school staff on the various holidays earlier that day.  The committee made no formal motion to revisit the issue at a later date, however.