A new Fall Break in October is one of the biggest changes to the Summit School District calendar for next year, along with an earlier Spring Break in April.
The 2014-15 school year calendar was decided on much later this year than usual, because the district had to wait until January when new testing windows were released from the state. The school board approved the calendar at their March 11 meeting. Following school board approval, the calendar is reviewed during negotiations with teachers in the spring.
“We have parameters in place that have more or less been working for us, but it’s time to re-educate the community as to why the calendar is the way it is, and look at the big picture to see how it needs to evolve,” said school board president Margaret Carlson.
A district calendar committee met for five weeks to discuss possible changes, hosting three community meetings starting in February to gather feedback. The committee reviewed neighboring and Front Range district calendars, state requirements and the parameters established by the school board.
Spokeswoman Julie McCluskie said the district will stick with a staggered start next year. The first day of school will be Aug. 18 for middle and high school students, Aug. 19 for elementary schools and Aug. 20 for kindergartners.
Colorado requires 1,056 hours of instructional time at the secondary level, which is why McCluskie said there is not typically a later start date. The district also prioritizes getting in final exams for the high school students before the Holiday Break, she said. Keeping the number of days in each semester even is also a goal of the calendar, Carlson said.
“If we started later, after Labor Day, we would have to extend more into the winter Holiday Break, or have a later release in June even,” McCluskie said.
In a survey conducted by the district, 58 percent of the staff voted for an Aug. 18 start date next year. Twenty-seven percent voted for Aug. 25 and 15 percent voted for a split start between August 18 and 25. A slight majority of the 350 parent respondents voted for Aug. 25, almost 46 percent, where about 45 percent voted for Aug. 18.
Due to “numerous road closures” during the USA Pro Challenge, there is also no school Aug. 22, because according to the district, school buses would be unable to deliver students home at the end of the day.
“The priority is always to look at what’s best for student learning,” McCluskie said. “The 18th provides the greatest amount of time for classroom instruction so students have the best opportunity to succeed on those tests later on.”
The new Fall Break, from Oct. 17-21, was created to help families who work for the resorts who cannot usually vacation during other school breaks. There is no full week off in Thanksgiving because of this new break, even with high absentee rates during the first two days before the Thanksgiving Break.
“We wanted to help our families who work for the resorts,” McCluskie said. “Our attendance and calendar surveys showed that families tied to the resorts can’t get away at Christmas, or February Break, or Thanksgiving, because that’s when they are busiest.”
Another change is that next year, students will attend school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Presidents Day. The Winter Break will be Feb. 23-27. One of the most suggested changes at the community meetings was to eliminate the February break altogether, because many parents find it hard to make accommodations during peak ski season.
Spring Break had to be April 6 to 10, due to the Colorado Department of Education’s testing dates and windows. This is the only week available in April, McCluskie said.
“We can’t have students out for a certain amount of time before the assessments,” she said. “We prefer to do Spring Break at the end of April, once the resorts are closed. With the assessment window next year, the only week available is that first week, it’s very unfortunate.”
McCluskie said the reason the district has not had Spring Break in March like most other Colorado school districts is because of the resorts.
“Our spring break is usually later to let people get away,” she said. “We just can’t do that next year.”
To view the full 2014-15 calendar, visit www.summit.k12.co.us.