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School calendar proposes Aug. 22 start, May 30 end

Some want later starting date, shorter spring break

Posted: Wednesday, December 20, 2000

Next school year would start on Aug. 22, end May 30, and include a two-week winter break and a one-week spring break, under a proposal before the Juneau School Board.

But some board members have asked Superintendent Gary Bader to bring back alternatives that include a later starting date and a shorter spring break.

A committee of mostly teachers and other school staff, plus several parents, drafted the calendar. They had to create a 183-day work year for teachers with 180 days of teacher contact with students, minus up to 10 days of teachers' in-services.

Parents wanted a two-week winter holiday break and a one-week spring break, said some parents on the calendar committee at a meeting in October. The spring break was useful for vacations and college visits, they said.

But some teachers at three schools have signed petitions asking for a later starting date. They are concerned about cutting into teachers' and students' summer vacations and jobs, said Sheryl Hall, the teachers' union president. And school board members have heard complaints from some parents about the starting date.

One advantage of the proposed schedule is it ends the high school semester before winter break, proponents said. When the semester continues for a week or so after the break, it ends up being spent in reviewing previous lessons, said Carolyn Spalding. And students spend their break either doing school work or worrying about not doing it, she said.

Setting the school calendar is an annual juggling act between starting and ending dates and the amount of breaks.

Beginning the school year on Aug. 22 allows it to end before June, which helps students get summer jobs, Spalding said. "I think that we need a spring break. ... I don't think we can go from December to June without a significant break," she added.

Letting parents know they can plan on their children having a week off in March could reduce the breaks some families take when school is in session, Spalding said.

But school board member Deana Darnall asked Bader to prepare a draft schedule that would start school for students on Aug. 27, shorten the first semester if needed, and have a four-day weekend in March as a spring break.

Darnall said she has talked to some middle school teachers who believe it's hard to get students on track after a week-long spring break.

School board member Chuck Cohen asked why the committee didn't consider holding parent-teacher conferences on evenings or Saturdays. Parents wouldn't have to take time off from work or find child care for young children who get out early during the conference days, he said.

The conferences also break up several weeks in the schedule and not a lot of educating takes place those weeks, Cohen said. Saturday conferences would tighten the school year and allow a later starting date, he added.

Bader said some teachers have 150 students and couldn't effectively meet with parents in fewer conference days.

The school board plans to discuss calendar options at its Jan. 16 meeting. It may not vote until February.

Eric Fry can be reached at efry@juneauempire.com.



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