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Newton School Committee calls off district’s February break to make up teacher strike days

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller voted with School Committee colleagues Thursday to cancel the district's February break.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The Newton School Committee voted Thursday night to eliminate the district’s February vacation and start making up for school days lost to the teacher strike.

The illegal strike, which had lasted 10 days as of Thursday, meant that the district’s five day buffer in June, traditionally reserved to make up for school days canceled due to snow, was used up. The committee members concluded they could not risk preserving the February break and then later needing to find more make-up days, whether due to the strike stretching on or for bad weather.

Though the School Committee and union had reached tentative agreements earlier in the week on a number of items related to working conditions, they remain deadlocked over raises for educators as of Thursday night.

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Some parents were angered by the news of the February break cancelation.

“We planned a family vacation that’s non-refundable. That was going to be our time to recharge as a family. And now we can’t get the money back and I don’t know what we’re going to do,” said Tim Callahan, who has three children in the district. “We want our children back in school. I have a son that suffering from depression, I have two kids on IEP’s, and this has been really hard on our family. I support the teachers, I just think the strike is really unfair and a little bit selfish.”

Superintendent Anna Nolin assured the committee that students will not be penalized for absences during the previously scheduled break given the short notice.

Canceling the February break does not make up for every lost day thus far. The break, Feb. 20 to 23, lasts only four days, as Feb. 19 is President’s Day, and the district might have to also cut into the scheduled April break.

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Under state law, the district has to have 180 days in school.

Committee member Rajeev Parlikar argued it would be too risky not to cancel the February break immediately.

“If we don’t have school during February break, and the strike goes longer ... or we have a bad weather event, we’re suddenly going to be left with no option other than Saturdays and Sundays and I don’t think anyone wants that,” Parlikar said.

The committee all agreed that they did not want to schedule school on weekends.



Christopher Huffaker can be reached at christopher.huffaker@globe.com. Follow him @huffakingit.