GREAT BARRINGTON — For the first time in decades, incoming freshmen to Monument Mountain Regional High School will share their first day with upperclassmen.
"I liked the way it was before, " said Superintendent of Schools Peter Dillon during the School Committee meeting on July 28. "But when it was brought to me in public meeting that it was against state guidelines to keep the tenth through twelfth graders out for that day, I couldn't ignore it."
Dillon said the impetus for changing the day's structure came from high school principal Marianne Young. He said Young pointed out that by excluding upperclassmen from the first day of school, the district was "shortchanging" the students a day of class.
"We need to make sure the students get 180 days," Young confirmed on Tuesday.
The School Committee was less than enthusiastic during their discussion of the modified half-day and schedule, but accepted it as a hopefully temporary state of affairs.
"As a parent of a freshman, I really valued that day," said committee member Andrew Potter. "I feel they really handled that day well."
Most important for committee member Steve Bannon was the issue of enforcement.
"If we do this, the tenth and eleventh graders may not show up," he said. "We have to make it real."
Bannon suggested penalizing athletics; students who miss the half-day shouldn't be allowed to participate in sports that day, he said.
Dillon pointed out that so many of the students will be involved in student government, athletics, and helping with orientation that there wouldn't be many upperclassmen that would be put out by being on campus in the afternoon.
The committee approved the plan and looked forward to revisiting and perhaps modifying it after the trial date for 2016.
Young explained the new modified schedule for Aug. 31, the first day of the school year. The day is a "convocation," she explained, or a welcoming ceremony.
Students and parents will arrive to school at 8 a.m. and join members of guidance staff and the Student Senate for an orientation. Young said that the entire morning would be spent adjusting to the new surroundings without the pressures of upperclassmen.
"Ideally, they're the only ones in the building," she said. "It's a fresh experience."
In the afternoon, upperclassmen will arrive and the entire school will follow a modified school day to familiarize themselves with classrooms and teachers.
"We will be welcoming the freshmen," Young said. "And kicking off the school year."