FORT KENT, Maine – Back-to-school time, the traditional sign of summer’ s end, is coming a bit earlier for students in SAD 27, thanks to a board-approved revised academic calendar.
Classes for kindergarten through grade 12 will begin Tuesday, Aug. 12, a full two weeks ahead of last year’ s schedule for elementary and middle school students. Students in all grades then will be off for a two-week potato harvest break starting Monday, Sept. 22.
Normally the four elementary schools are out for only a week at the harvest. Extending the full break to them could save the district up to $15,000 in fuel costs since no buses will run those two weeks.
SAD 27 covers Fort Kent, Eagle Lake, Winterville, Wallagrass, St. John Plantation and St. Francis, and operates elementary schools in Fort Kent, Wallagrass, Eagle Lake and St. Francis and the community high school in Fort Kent.
“This request came straight from the teachers association,” said Jim Grandmaison, SAD 27 business manager. “It’ s something we had talked about several years ago, but there was some concern younger kids getting that long of a break early in the year tend to lose more of what they had learned.”
According to the man then serving as president of the SAD 27 teachers association, the two-week break will have little to no impact on the learning process.
“It’ s not more or less disruptive to let them out two weeks as it is for the one week,” Phil Bouchard, retired SAD 27 educator, said. “When they come back from vacation, you still have to set some time for review.”
Bouchard said the association calculated SAD 27 buses use 900 gallons of fuel a day.
“At $4 a gallon, that’ s $3,600 a day,” he said.
Bouchard said the suggestion for extending the two-week break to the younger grades grew out of the association’ s desire to help cut costs.
“If you have to cut costs, let’ s not cut education or materials for education,” he said. “We knew we could do our share of helping to find savings.”
Grandmaison said fewer students actually work in farm-related jobs during the harvest break because of the overall decline of agriculture in the area, but said approximately 50 to 60 still find harvest-related work.
Grandmaison said the school board has had discussions on the appropriateness of maintaining the harvest break.
The SAD 27 calendar change has no impact on the district’ s work with several other St. John Valley school districts in formulating an alternative operating structure as part of the statewide school reorganization legislation.
“In fact, this actually helps as it brings our schedule more in line with the others,” Grandmaison said. “According to the law, there can be no more than 10 dissimilar days among the schools within the [group].”