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Clarksburg School Clips Summer Break to Extend Construction Season
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
03:56AM / Monday, April 10, 2017
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The School Committee discussed a broad range of topics on Thursday night.

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Summer vacation will be shorter for Clarksburg students this year. 
 
School gets out on June 23 to make up seven snow days (to date) after a rough winter. And they'll be heading back into the classroom on Aug. 28, the Monday before Labor Day. 
 
The early return is designed to accommodate a possible school building project next year, should a successful vote take place in the fall. 
 
Typically, school begins after the Monday Labor Day holiday according to the teachers' contract, said Principal Tara Barnes.
 
"The teachers very graciously decided reconsider the start," she said at Thursday's School Committee meeting. "They know and are 100 percent completely behind doing whatever it takes to get this vote to pass because they know how it important it is to this community."
 
The hope is that next winter won't have as many snow days — no snow days will mean school will get out June 7, 2018, said Superintendent Jonathan Lev. 
 
The preferred plan being submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority is a renovation and addition. School officials will push for as much work as possible to done during the summer and try to avoid a delay that will have students coming in mid-year, as happened at Colegrove Park Elementary in North Adams.  
 
"The sooner you get out of the school if construction is going to happen ... the better," Barnes said. "You want to make a window so construction has as much time as possible to complete."
 
Lev said he and members of the School Building Committee will be traveling to Boston on Wednesday morning to present to the MSBA's Facilities Assessment Subcommittee and will update the committee that night. 
 
"Once the design is picked we'll really fine-tune it and get more detail on the prices," he said. 
 
The expectation is to begin with informational meetings in May, including immediately preceding the annual town meeting.
 
"The plan right now is the vote for the project would probably be Sept. 22 ... between now and then you're going to here a lot of about it, what it's going to mean, what it's going to cost Clarksburg," Lev said. 
 
In other business: 
 
Barnes said testing will take place beginning the week after April school break. 
 
The so-called MCAS 2.0 is hybrid of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, to which the state had considered switching. Clarksburg used the online PARCC test last year. It will again be held harmless in testing this year, meaning its Level 1 status will not be affected by lower scores. It will be used determine student growth for internal use, said Lev. 
 
• The School Committee delayed action on a delinquent lunch policy drafted by the cafeteria manager and based on policies at surrounding schools. They agreed a policy was needed but were concerned how children would be treated if their parents were behind on lunch payments. 
 
The policy laid out a process of communication once a child became three lunches behind. Parents would be informed and children would receive a sandwich, fruit and milk rather than a hot lunch. 
 
Committee members, however, balked at a phrase that would not allow pupils to purchase extra snacks or milk but instead have their money taken to pay down their debt.
 
"I don't like the idea of taking their $1 for crackers and not giving the food," said committee member John Solari.
 
Lev agreed, "they shouldn't be allowed to buy a snack but we shouldn't take the money."
 
Barnes said some parents have delinquencies of $60 or more and there have been regular attempts to apprise families that they owe money including phone calls and letters.
 
In answer to questions about these families ability to pay, Administrative Assistant Mary Giron explained that any family getting state aid is automatically enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program but that there are some families that may qualify but not apply. 
 
"What we're talking about is habitual offenders. ... it tends to be the same families and it's hard to get that money back," Giron said. "You're looking at years of nonpayment."
 
• There was also an extended conversation on how many children would be accepted into kindergarten and if the grade would be split, opening up school-choice slots. Eighteen children have been registered but several others are expected to attend. 
 
Lev and Barnes said a decision would not be made until later this spring. The school has school-choice slots open only Grade 8. Some 46 of the school's 178 enrolled are school-choice students.
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