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Saugus schools OK visit by Santa

But the holiday event must be set up month before

Santa Claus is coming to town. In a unanimous vote Thursday night, the Saugus School Committee decided to continue a decades-old tradition of Santa - a town firefighter dressed in beard and red suit - visiting kindergartners.

Under new rules approved by the board, the date and time of the visit will be established a month in advance, and parents will receive a notice allowing them to withdraw their child from participating if they do not want them at the event.

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“The new guidelines include provisions to resolve the visits a month prior so that we can avoid last-minute conflict like we had this past year,’’ Corinne Riley, the board’s vice chairwoman, said in an e-mail. “The other change would allow parents to be notified of the visit, and [they] will have the explicit ability to opt out, with students given other appropriate activities as determined by the school.’’

In December, School Superintendent Richard Langlois canceled the long-held tradition because he believed it conflicted with a policy banning celebration of religious holidays in public schools. The decision drew widespread attention in news reports. He later reversed his decision.

Committee member Wendy Reed said the guidelines were established to balance the tradition and concerns raised by the superintendent, among others.

“There was much discussion on how to approach or address the issue so we could continue the tradition without anyone feeling uncomfortable or left out,’’ she said in a telephone interview.

Langlois did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

Colin A. Young can be reached at
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