Community to weigh in on D51 calendar options

Community members will likely have a chance to chime in this winter on calendar possibilities for the 2013-14 school year in District 51.

The district’s school board viewed four draft calendar scenarios Tuesday night. Each scenario presented to the board by a 15-member committee of district staff members is subject to change and the board made no decisions Tuesday.

Two of the scenarios stick to a calendar similar to the one in place this year, except one starts school Aug. 19 and the other starts a week earlier on Aug. 12 in order to make academic quarters more even throughout the school year. Another option creates a longer spring break and adds a fall break and shortens the summer break so classes begin Aug. 5. The goal of that scenario is to give students less time to forget what they learned the previous school year before they return to classes and to allow time for student enrichment and staff training during breaks instead of before or after school or in the summer, according to committee member Bob Corneille, a counselor at Fruita Monument High School.

The fourth scenario has a shortened summer and added breaks as well, but incorporates a four-day week schedule with longer school days. Board member Jeff Leany said he would also like to explore the possibility of a four-day school year that would retain current school day hours.

Committee members said both extended school year scenarios may require a year of transition and may not be ready for implementation in 2013, particularly the four-day week scenario. District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita said potential snags to implementation of an early start date next year could include resistance from families and staff who have already made plans for this August. The district would also have to figure out how to handle payroll, which spreads out payment for teachers and support staff through the summer and into August, a situation that may lead to overlap if school began earlier this year.

Board President Greg Mikolai suggested the district host an open house where members of the community could examine each calendar scenario, ask committee members questions about the pros and cons of each scenario, and write down their opinions for the board to consider.

The meeting would happen before the board adopts a calendar for 2013-14, which is likely to happen in February or March.

Also at Tuesday’s school board meeting, the board voted unanimously to approve a charter for Juniper Ridge Community School, a Waldorf-inspired school expected to open in fall 2013. The board also approved new policies that allow schools more discretion in deciding whether to expel students in accordance with new law that allows districts to do away with most “zero tolerance” policies for expulsion.

The board also voted unanimously to adopt new boundaries for the five districts in which school board members live.

Boards are required to redraw lines every four years in order to keep districts relatively even in population. DeVita presented a boundary map drawn by Boulder-based demographer Shannon Bingham at the board’s last meeting. Board member Ann Tisue expressed concern at that meeting that the map was confusing and did not incorporate enough “straight lines.”

Bingham appeared in person with at Tuesday’s meeting and presented the original map he drew and a second map he formulated after November’s meeting. The original map uses more canals to split the district’s population into even chunks while the second map used more roads. The main difference between the two maps was that District D, the district in which Board Vice President Leslie Kiesler lives, spreads further west on the border with Tisue’s District B in Orchard Mesa and bordered U.S. Highway 50 on the south in the second scenario. In Bingham’s original map, District D doesn’t go as far west and dips below the highway.

When it was time for the board to select a boundary map, Kiesler said she preferred the original drawing because she said it was less confusing than the second scenario introduced at Tuesday’s meeting. Tisue said she didn’t see that much difference between the two and voted with Kiesler against the second map because, she said, Kiesler had stronger feelings on the subject. Board member Harry Butler sided with them and the motion for the new map failed. 

The board voted unanimously to adopt the original map presented in November.


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