Board adopts shorter year with new school calendar

Support staff pleased with new schedule

Posted: Wednesday, March 08, 2000

The public schools will get their work done in a smaller number of days than previously proposed, under a school calendar approved Tuesday night by the Juneau School Board.

Next school year will run from Aug. 28, 2000, to June 1, 2001. After hearing complaints last month, mainly from employees, the school district compressed the proposed school year - of Aug. 24 to June 6 - by reducing a winter break.

The winter break, with three weekdays lopped off, now will run for 12 days, from Dec. 21, 2000, to Jan. 1, 2001. There will be a week-long spring break in late March.

A long school year would cut into summer jobs for students and staff, teachers' union President Rocky Eddy said at an earlier school board meeting.

And support staff, such as custodians and teachers' aides, said a long winter break would force them to use up their paid leave to cover it. Staff who hadn't accrued much leave would get a smaller paycheck before Christmas.

The Juneau Education Support Staff is very happy with the new calendar, said representative Debbie Marbach.

The new calendar also resolves complaints that the previous proposal would have started and ended the school year mid-week, which critics said tended to lead to wasted days. The new calendar starts the school year on a Monday and ends it on a Friday.

But there are tradeoffs. Ending the year on a Friday could make it hard for the high school to check last-semester grades prior to the graduation ceremony. Schools Superintendent Gary Bader said commencement could be held on Sunday, if necessary.

In meeting another criticism, the new calendar also reduces the number of weeks broken up by staff in-service days. One of them will now be held before the students' school year starts. Another one, in October, will be for high school teachers only.

Any school calendar is a compromise. Bader said some people who travel a lot would like to see a longer winter break, but others wanted a compressed school year.

Those staff who e-mailed their comments to the district generally favored the new calendar, but many also wanted the longer winter break. A small majority of those commenting actually preferred a shorter spring break.

The calendar includes 183 days of staff work, with 177 days of student instruction for kindergarten through grade eight, and 176 days of high school instruction. Some of those instructional days are cut into by parent conferences and standardized testing.

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