The first-day-of-school schedule used to be almost universal — Labor Day was on a Monday, teachers came back Tuesday and students returned Wednesday.

But increased focus on teacher training, state and Advanced Placement course testing in early spring, plus a Jewish holiday in the first week of September mean this year students in some districts are going back earlier, or later than usual.

Teachers at the Galloway Community Charter School have already been doing home visits and setting up their classrooms in preparation for the opening of school today. The K-8 district began opening in August two years ago to give students more time in the classroom before state tests in late April and May.

Wildwood and Wildwood Crest will welcome students back Aug. 29, getting in two days of school before the Labor Day holiday.

“I always felt the kids are ready to go back by mid-August anyway,” said Galloway Charter School founder and lead administrator Deborah Nataloni, who was working with staff to finish the final scheduling.

Teachers there said students are used to the earlier start. Special education teacher Robyn Poinsett said the students like that they get done earlier in June, something teachers will remind them of if there are any complaints.

“My students are excited,” sixth-grade teacher Pam Fitzsimmons said. “They get bored at home and tired of sleeping all day.”

“But they will be tired that first week,” third-grade teacher Carol Spina said. “We just have to get them back into the school routine.”

The Galloway Township public schools won’t open for students until Sept. 9. The district will have teacher training after Labor Day, and close for Rosh Hoshana.

Galloway Superintendent Annette Giaquinto said she prefers to open earlier, but several factors played into the decision to open later this year, including the holiday and wanting to be sure the roof replacement and storm water system/parking lot work at Arthur Rann School was completed and ready for students.

“This is the best course of action based on this year’s needs,” she said in an email.

Advanced Placement students at Hammonton High School never really left for the summer. The majority are taking the district’s special summer sessions to get a head start on the demanding course work. Many other high schools assigned AP summer homework due on the first day of school.

Hammonton supervisor Robin Chieco said that as more students take AP courses, the summer enrollment has grown, with many students taking multiple courses.

Chemistry teacher Ryan Entress said the primary benefit is that since only one course meets each day, students can focus on that coursework. He said with students working and taking vacations it is difficult to do labs, but he can get through introductory material so students know what to expect when they return for the official start of the school year Sept. 4.

“There’s no startup in September,” he said. “They’ll probably have an exam the first week of school.”

Students said the summer program keeps them focused.

“You don’t lose what you learned last year, and it helps you know what to expect this year,” said junior Charmaine Chew, 16, who is taking four summer sessions, in chemistry, history, calculus and English, and working.

Chieco said Hammonton also offers a late summer prep session for seniors who failed at least one section of the High School Proficiency Assessment in their junior year and have to take the make-up test starting Oct. 1.

“October comes up pretty fast,” she said. If students can pass the test in October, they can avoid having to take it again in March and going through the lengthy Alternative High School Assessment process.

Locally, the majority of schools will open right after Labor Day, though some will immediately take a day off for Rosh Hoshana on Sept. 5. Local school boards can decide to close for any of dozens of religious holidays authorized by the state Board of Education. But all public school districts must still provide 180 days of school by June 30. The more days off, the later school closes in June.

Local schools are taking a variety of approaches. Only a few are closing for the holiday, though some will have only a half-day of school.

Most Cape May County schools will open Sept. 3 or 4. Greater Egg Harbor Regional’s three high schools will open Sept. 3. Vineland and Hamilton Township will open Sept. 5.

Egg Harbor Township schools will open Sept. 4, close Sept. 5 for the holiday, and open again Sept. 6. Linwood will start school Sept. 3 but close Thursday.

Atlantic City and Mainland Regional won’t open for students until Sept. 9. Both will provide staff training after Labor Day and close for the Jewish holiday.

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