EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

August 18, 2013

Lawrence schools to start this week

Classes begin this Wednesday under second year of state receivership

LAWRENCE — Summer vacation ends for the 13,300 students in Lawrence Public Schools who will go to their first day of classes Wednesday.

The starting date for the state’s poorest performing school district — which enters its second full year under state receivership — is a full two weeks ahead of Boston and may be the earliest opening for any public school system in Massachusetts this year.

“August 21 is a fairly early opening statewide,” Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley said. “Many school districts start the following week and some start after Labor Day.”

By contrast, classes begin in Haverhill on Aug. 27, in Andover on Aug. 28, in North Andover on Sept. 3 and in Methuen on Sept. 4.

Cutting summer vacation short is an easy way to help increase classroom time for a school system that’s been declared as “chronically underperforming” and ranked as the only Level 5 district in the state.

Riley said the early start is actually due to the weather, not increased classroom time. He noted that over the last two years, weather-related cancellations pushed the final days of classes to the end of June and beginning of July. Riley would prefer to begin the school year earlier than ending it late.

“For our grades 1-8 schools, this is the first year that all schools will add a minimum of 200 hours to the school year,” said Riley, who is in his 19th month of a 3 1/2-year contract to run the city’s troubled school district. He expects it could take him up to seven years to be able to returned the school system to city control.

“Schools were given the freedom to determine what their particular schedule will look like. With the launch of this initiative, we will have the largest concentration of expanded learning time schools in the state,” he said.

Grades 9-12 will keep traditional hours, as high school students often have jobs or participate in sports and other extracurricular activities, according to Riley.

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