JAY – The School Committee approved the 2009-10 school calendar at its Thursday meeting, but not without considerable discussion and some dissent.

Board member Judy Diaz said her concern was with students going back to school two weeks before Labor Day weekend when many families are away on summer vacations.

However, Superintendent Dr. Robert Wall noted that the need to put in adequate snow cancellation dates necessitated starting school Aug. 25.

“We certainly don’t want to make safety decisions based on when the end of the school year is,” he said.

Chairwoman Mary Luce noted that for high school seniors to graduate on time with a later start to the school year, they would need to go to school on Saturdays to make up for snow days. Although this has been done in the past, it hasn’t been without considerable inconvenience for students and staff, she pointed out.

Jay High School teacher Mike Henry, who is also president of the Jay Education Association, explained that in the teachers’ contract there is a provision for the school committee to meet with staff when the calendar is produced.

“In a contract situation, where it says meet and consult, we don’t have any bargaining power but we have the right to meet and consult,” he noted.

Henry complained that teachers’ ideas for the calendar weren’t being seriously considered with the current system and wondered if a written list of ideas would work better. The school committee was receptive to the suggestion.

Wall said that the draft of the calendar was sent to each teacher’s room. He added that the administrative team worked closely with him on it.

There was some discussion about having early-release days. Wall said that legally, the school can’t do half- and full-day teacher workshops, and must go exclusively with full days.

“I personally, and a great deal of the students I know would prefer to start the last week in August rather than having it pushed back,” said student School Committee representative Kyle Hawkins.

In another matter, Principal Scott Albert reported that Jay Middle School has anti-bullying and conflict-resolution programs that are producing positive results. A Civil Rights Team composed of concerned students has improved the school’s climate, and there are activities designed to avoid cliques.

“One of the big things is to demonstrate to the kids a one-time incident versus whether it goes on consistently,” Albert said.

The board eliminated several teaching positions in accordance with residents’ affirmative vote on the school budget on April 27. The reductions are effective Aug. 31.

Two special education teacher positions were eliminated, along with two health/physical education teachers. Others eliminated were a world language teacher, a social studies teacher, a science teacher, and a music teacher. The board added a librarian teaching position that had been a proposed cut.

In other news, the board voted unanimously in favor of having Jay High School sophomore Hillary Chaney serve as a student representative starting with their first July meeting this year and continuing through Chaney’s senior year. She will take graduating senior Justin Shink’s place.