Calendar discussion dominates D51 meeting

The 2013-14 calendar for District 51 schools was a hot topic at a community meeting hosted by the district Tuesday night.

About 50 people gathered in the Grand Junction High School library for the meeting.

Although the meeting was designed as an open forum for citizens to ask district executives and school board members anything about local education, most audience comments centered on the board’s decision last week to adopt an extended-year calendar.

The calendar would include a one- or two-week break in the fall and a two-week spring break and could start school as early as Aug. 5 this summer.

School Board members will finalize the dates of the calendar at Tuesday’s School Board meeting at 6 p.m. at the Basil T. Knight Center. The adoption will likely include dates for a 2013-14 calendar and a 2014-15 calendar, according to District 51 Superintendent Steve Schultz.

Tamara Snyder, a parent of three students in the district, was excited to hear the board will consider letting parents know school dates for two consecutive years.

But she said at the meeting she was not happy the school board wanted to adopt a calendar with a shorter summer less than six months before the start of school. She booked a family vacation a year ago and hopes the board will pick an Aug. 12 start date for the calendar so her children don’t have to miss school and take homework with them on the trip.

“In the big scheme of things it’s not the most important, but some of us want to plan and I save all year long for my family to go on vacation,” Snyder said.

Snyder’s boyfriend, Ron Perez, said his concern about the calendar is the longer breaks. Extra help for students who are falling behind or extra class time for students who want to keep studying during breaks may be offered if grants come through for the district. But Perez said that’s not much of a help if attendance during breaks is not mandatory for students who are struggling. Other parents expressed concern about children missing camps or activities that take place in August or wondered where students could go when school was on break.

One parent questioned whether breaking up the school year would hurt student progress, while another said she felt the district didn’t do enough to seek opinions from parents on the calendar by having four public open houses on a single night.  School Board President Greg Mikolai responded the board hosted open houses on one night to prevent repeat, “skewed” votes.


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