District officials are trying to figure out the most sensible way to build more wiggle room into the proposed 2025-26 school year schedule.
As a proposed calendar now before the Board of Education has it, that school year would start on a Thursday in August and end on a Thursday the following June, meaning the final week of school could absorb just one snow day before threatening to push the academic year into the following week.
However, the district by its own policy doesn’t push the school year beyond the third full week of June.
“So there’s different things that are conspiring against us here for that start date,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said during the Board’s regular meeting, held Dec. 4 in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School.
The ‘25-’26 school year is already an anomaly in that several months will see a reduction in the number of school days just because of how the holidays fall. For example, New Year’s Day falls on a Thursday that year, meaning Jan. 2 is a Friday.
Referring to the proposed calendar, which has Jan. 1 and 2 as days off, Luizzi said, “In putting this together, I just couldn’t in good conscience have a school day knowing nobody would come. It just didn’t work.”
The Board discussed different ways the district might “find” two additional snow days (asked by Board Secretary Matt Campbell how many of those the district typically likes to anticipate for the schedule, Luizzi said three total).
One solution would be reducing the number of school days for New Canaan Public Schools from the district’s standard 182 to the state-required 180.
“We don’t like shortening that,” Luizzi said. “Of course, we do more days because it’s better for kids. It’s also challenging in the labor arena because now you’re figuring out who’s working, who’s not working. How does that all work? But we’ve done it in the past and we figure it all out. So that’s one option.”
Another option would be to reduce the number of days in the April 2026 break, which currently includes a Friday and then the entire following week (April 3 to 10), meaning families get two weekends for the vacation (same in February).
A third option, Luizzi said, could be for the district to waive its own policy and hold school beyond the third full week of June.
Board member Penny Rashin pushed back on that idea, saying, “I don’t really think it’s that realistic to go to the end of June, even though you’re allowed to do it, because parents have their kids all scheduled for programs and you just lose everybody.”
She and Board member Brendan Hayes urged their colleagues to consider restoring Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day to the academic calendar as a school day instead of a day off.
“I think it’s an obvious solution,” Hayes said. “The reason essentially being that kids are going to have a day in October. And that is going to give us more time, more productive time in the middle of October. That solves the problem. And I think that’s better than having people come earlier in August. And it gives us a little bit more flexibility in June.”
Rashin, the senior member of as a -term incumbent, said the calendar is “too tight” and that she doesn’t recall ever approving a calendar with room for just one snow day.
“I think the Board would end up with two snow days,” she said. “You’re probably cutting a day of school, which I don’t think is a good solution. And it’s so funny because I really think that it was this kind of calendar that led the prior board to not have Columbus Day as a day off. Just because you don’t want to push the teachers to come in on the 21st [of August] and you don’t want to push the day of school back. I’m not trying to start a big discussion here, but this is exactly the type of calendar that led us to take Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day out as a holiday originally because you don’t want to put, people in this community do not want to their kids in school after the 19th and they really like the beginning, more days in August, too. So I don’t know if it’s something that people are willing to consider or not, but I think it is a helpful solution.”
Board of Ed Chair Hugo Alves said he wanted to avoid “relitigating” the question of Columbus Day, a contentious issue for the school board and community last year.
“My experience this year in town is a lot of parents were confused and they thought we had passed the Columbus Day holiday for this year, and were actually not thrilled to find out that it was only for next year,” Alves said. “And I don’t think that they’ll be thrilled to find out that we’ll have it next year and then not the following. So I think, Dr. Luizzi to your point, which is how I thought we had left it—even though we didn’t all agree on it—was we’re going to put that back in after a decade of not having it and figure out where to change around the fringes where we need to and when we need to. It is a national holiday and I think it’s important to keep it. That’s just my perspective, at least on this.”
The Board agreed to revisit the 2025-26 school year at a future meeting.
Luizzi noted at the outset that new teacher orientation occurs just before the start of the school year, and that New Canaan has already reduced that orientation from four days to three, including convocation.
“And we’ve gotten feedback from our new teachers, as we’ve been visiting with them, that they really wish they had at least another day to really get their hands into the curriculum, to spend some time—especially our elementary teachers, who teach everything—getting a chance to speak with our curriculum coordinators, look at the curriculum, really plan out those first couple of days, if not beyond,” Luizzi said. “And the three days that we have now is really just, it’s very intense. And they all said it was a very successful three days. But it’s intense. There’s a lot of information there that they need just to walk through the classroom on the first day. They want more time to do some of that work.”
He added that the district’s administrative retreat also had been cut back from three days to two and “we feel like that third day, again, is important.”
The Board might consider moving convocation back to the Thursday of the prior week—to Aug. 21, 2025—and move up the start of the school year accordingly as a way to “find” more days, officials said.
Board member Julie Toal said she has heard “a lot of complaints” from residents about the Friday prior to the February break being a full day off from school and asked whether it could be made into a half or even regular school day.
Luizzi said that the district did that once but it was tricky because it’s still important for staff to have a professional development day around that time of year.
Toal asked later in the meeting whether the district “ever asked for community feedback on that wraparound vacation?”
Luizzi said, “There was some conversation maybe 11, 12 years ago about shortening the February break, the week-long break, to be more in line with what some other districts are doing with the long weekends of say, five—we’ll take Friday, Monday, Tuesdays to do a long weekend. And that didn’t go so well. People really wanted to protect that five days. So since then, I don’t think there’s been much conversation, but we can certainly have it.”
Toal clarified that was “definitely” not looking to cut into the solid week off, but was looking at the Friday leading into the Feb break.
Vice Chair Erica Schwedel said she hadn’t received community feedback regarding the Friday leading into New Canaan’s breaks in February and April, “but I had thought from previous conversations that this was more about the professional learning and that we have to space the professional learning.”
“You can’t do all of it in the beginning of the year and then go, you need to have an intermediate professional learning day,” she continued. “And there’s no other day that makes sense to do it more than doing it right before February break.”
Toal said that many districts do not have two full weeks off in February and April, so “if we stuck a professional learning day towards the end of one of those vacations,” it could be a way to ensure those training days are preserved amid vacations for students and families.
The Board of Ed’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Dec. 18.