Summit School District seeking feedback for 2014-15 calendar changes
February 5, 2014
Summit School District's calendar for 2014-15 is still up for debate, and the district is looking for feedback from parents and community members about possible changes.
Currently, the district's holidays are Labor Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Memorial Day, as well as three days at Thanksgiving, two weeks for the December holiday break, one week for February break and one week for spring break.
District spokeswoman Julie McCluskie said at a public meeting Tuesday, Feb. 5, that the hope is to have a draft of the calendar by the end of this month. Usually, next year's calendar is in place by this time, but the district had to wait to learn what the state testing windows would be. Spring break in April has to work around the testing windows.
"The calendar is one part of the whole package and it's always difficult to juggle different interests and concerns," she said.
About 15 parents and community members attended the meeting to share feedback, writing out the pros and cons of possible changes.
School board president Margaret Carlson said she was looking to hear about immediate calendar changes for next year, as well as big-picture ideas, which might take a few years to implement.
"We're looking for changes in terms of something realistic for next year," she said.
A calendar committee of about 20 people — parents from the elementary, middle and high school levels, teachers and administrators from different levels, central office staff and community members — was formed to help guide the process.
One of the biggest issues is keeping the two semesters balanced when it comes to the number of days students are in school. The district is committed to making sure high school students complete finals before the holiday break, Carlson said.
This year, the last day of the first semester was Dec. 21. Middle and high school students returned Jan. 7, while elementary students returned Jan. 8. McCluskie said the district often sees spikes in absenteeism in the days around breaks, especially the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving break.
"No matter when breaks are scheduled, we see some of the same patterns," she said. "It's all part of the discussion about attendance."
Colorado mandates the number of hours, rather than days, that students must be in school: 1,056 hours for secondary, 968 for elementary and 900 hours for kindergarten. One suggestion was to move to a four-day week, with Fridays off, and have longer school days; the con parents brought up was child care.
Brian Binge, a Dillon Valley Elementary parent, suggested having school year-round to help improve learning retention. McCluskie said to keep in mind the cost of adding days; paying teachers for just one extra school day would be $90,000 to $100,000.
Many parents voiced concerns about the staggered start to the school year. Currently, the different levels start on different days. The first day for middle and high school students this year was Aug. 20. Elementary started Aug. 21, and kindergarten started Aug. 22.
"We do live in a special community, and there are challenges because of the resort environment," Carlson said. "The No. 1 priority is to do what's best for student learning."
One of the most suggested changes at Tuesday's meeting was to get rid of February break, which many working parents find hard to accommodate due to peak ski season. Those days would then have to be taken off somewhere else in spring, on other one-day holidays or extended weekends, to keep the semesters equal. The February break has alternated between the last week of the month and over Presidents Day weekend.
As far as which holidays the school observes, such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but not Columbus Day, Carlson said those might be some of the most flexible options for next year.
"There's not a lot of rhyme or reason to which ones we observe and which ones we take off," she said.
The district will host another public meeting for feedback at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, in the media center at Upper Blue Elementary School in Breckenridge.
The calendar committee will meet through the end of February, then propose the calendar to the board of education. The school board reviews the calendar every year.
"Putting together a school calendar is always a challenge," McCluskie said. "We want to hear from our community, hearing their ideas and suggestions."
For more information or to offer suggestions, contact Julie McCluskie at (970) 368-1013 or firstname.lastname@example.org.