Board Of Education Discusses 12/14 Observance For 2023
At the March 7 Board of Education meeting, discussion concerning the calendar for the 2023-2024 school year was on the agenda with possible action. Donald Ramsey moved that the Board approve the calendar, which was seconded by Alison Plante.
Board member Daniel Cruson then made a motion to amend the calendar currently providing a two-hour delay, to make December 14 a full day off for staff and students. Approval of the full day off on December 14, 2023, would push the last day of school from June 11 to June 12.
Jennifer Larkin seconded Cruson’s requested amendment, and that motion was moved to discussion.
Cruson referenced decisions that had been made about the observance of 12/14 within the last five years, which were detailed by Assistant Superintendent Anne Uberti later in the meeting.
According to Uberti, in 2022, the day was reserved for professional development. Uberti said, however, that many staff members were uncomfortable participating in professional development that day.
In 2021, school was held remotely “due to threats going on nationally,” and in 2020, schools were remote during the pandemic. In 2019, 12/14 was a Saturday, and in 2018, Sandy Hook School was evacuated due to a threat.
“I am concerned about the stress that evacuating a school and having to make a last minute call puts on families, students, and staff,” Cruson said, and added that he’d rather the board “play it safe.”
Board member Janet Kuzma asked Uberti whether the staff had been surveyed about their preference. Uberti confirmed that Sandy Hook School Principal Dr Kathy Gombos had conducted a survey.
“[Gombos] feels strongly that since she is in the most impacted building, that her staff should have input,” Uberti said.
According to Uberti, 67 percent of the 52 staff members who responded preferred a delayed opening, with 44 percent preferring a three-hour delay and 23 percent preferring a two-hour delay. But 27 percent of SHS teachers preferred they not be in school at all on the anniversary of 12/14, and 6 percent preferred a regular school day.
Kuzma said she heard that some students did not like having the day off, because they lose support they get at school. Uberti reminded officials that in the years immediately following the tragedy, the initial philosophy was to keep schools open.
“At the time, that was what many of our families who had suffered losses preferred,” Uberti said.
“Just for context, almost all of our K-5 students next year were born after 12/14/2012,” added Uberti. “But also, our  Sandy Hook kindergartners and first graders will be juniors and seniors.”
12/14 School Day
Uberti added that in the 2024-25 calendar, the anniversary of 12/14 falls on a Saturday. She said “there is some thought” that 2023 will be the last year students would not be in school on that day — then, after 2023, all the students who were at SHS in 2012 will have graduated from the local public school system.
“Being in school, we could get a threat on any day,” Superintendent Christopher Mellilo said, further expressing concern about students unable to access needed support from home.
“We can also provide supports, have counselors available for families who need to come to school that day,” Melillo said.
Melillo said either way, a delay or a full day off from school would work, and the only thing that doesn’t work is the professional development day.
Ramsey asked what the primary purpose of the delayed opening was, and Uberti said, “it would be self-directed so the staff would have time for observance.”
Ramsey said he felt not having school on the anniversary of 12/14 would be a fear-driven decision, and said it would be a good compromise to have a delayed opening. Kuzma asked why the committee had decided on a two-hour delay when Sandy Hook staff was surveyed as preferring a three-hour delay.
Uberti said she wasn’t sure, but suggested a three-hour delay would probably be more appropriate when the high school start time is considered — and where the delay starts for them.
Chair Deborra Zukowski moved to amend that December 14 be observed as a full day off from school, and that the calendar be extended so that June 12 becomes a calendar day. Cruson voted in favor with the five remaining board members opposed.
Plante moved that the calendar be amended to reflect a three-hour delayed opening on December 14, which Kuzma seconded. That motion passed unanimously.
Before the action, Zukowski asked Cruson how long conversations about 12/14 might be extended.
“Even tragedies that happened before us still get brought up from time to time,” Cruson said in his response. “I don’t know the effect they have on those school districts… we may just have to have this conversation again each year.”
Reporter Noelle Veillette can be reached at email@example.com.