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Spotsylvania school calendar opinions shared

BY PAMELA GOULD

Spotsylvania School Board members have received so many comments about the 2013–14 calendar that most are creating charts to analyze parents’ and teachers’ preferences.

The board is expected to decide at Monday’s meeting. Five of the six members reached for comment said they were still mulling their decision at week’s end.

The lone exception was Ray Lora, who said he had decided to vote for Option A, the one recommended by the division’s Calendar Committee.

With the option, classes in Spotsylvania schools would start after Labor Day like most other schools in the immediate Fredericksburg area.

But Lora, like the rest of the board, said it’s a tight race between Options A and C. Classes would start on Aug. 26 under Option C.

His only hesitation was that he wants to move the Jan. 3 makeup day in Option A to Jan. 27.

Under Option A, classes start Sept. 3 and end on June 13. With Option C, classes start on Aug. 26 and end on June 6.

Apart from the start and end dates, Options A and C are essentially identical.

Both offer the same two weeks off for winter break, the same week for spring break and do not require students to make up the first five days lost for bad weather.

With the contest between Options A and C so close, most board members were hedging their bets about which calendar will be selected.

Dawn Shelley, who serves on the Calendar Committee, said comments she’s received are trending in one direction, and it supports her inclination, but she wouldn’t say what that is.

She, like Board Chairwoman Amanda Blalock, said her vote will be determined by the majority vote from the feedback she has received.

“I’m going with what the people say,” said Shelley, who has received “well over 100” emails from parents and teachers.

Blalock, who has received more than 200 emails, said she won’t make her decision until shortly before the board meeting, but said Option A had nudged ahead in the feedback she’d gotten.

“I will know my vote when I leave for work Monday evening,” she said.

Blalock and Lora said this issue prompted more public input than any other in their tenures on the board.

She said people see this as “their calendar” since they have been so involved in creating it.

Superintendent Scott Baker established the Calendar Committee last fall. Then principals held community meetings to solicit the thoughts of staff and the community on it.

Board members said most comments are on one issue: the start date.

Those who favor Option A like the idea of starting when most divisions in the region start.

Nurses and attendance officers noted that the September date eliminates problems they had gathering information to get children fully registered from divisions not back from summer break, Shelley said.

People preferring the Aug. 26 start liked the benefit of providing Advanced Placement students an extra week of instruction prior to May testing. Some teachers also like the idea of getting administrative matters behind them in late August so they can focus on instruction by Sept. 3.

Board member Linda Wieland received about 150 emails and said she’s not only analyzing the overall preference but is also looking specifically at teacher input.

“I’m a teacher at heart,” said Wieland, who retired after a career as a Spotsylvania elementary teacher. “That’s going to be a big impact on my decision.”

Board members agreed that either option would be acceptable.

Jim Meyer, who had received 25 emails as of Thursday evening, said he was leaning toward Option A based on the tally of his input and the committee’s recommendation.

But he said he is remaining open to new information and would be interested in Baker’s recommendation.

Board member Bill Blaine was undecided as of Friday. With about 15 people weighing in at that point, he’s hopeful for more input.

He said he’s accustomed to an August start when he served a school division in Arlington Heights, Ill., but said he is open to what works best here.

His goal is to select a calendar that can be used consistently in the future.

Board members agreed that whatever happens with the 2013–14 calendar is likely to impact the direction in following years.

The Calendar Committee is scheduled to present its proposal for the 2014–15 calendar on March 25. The board would then vote on it April 8.

From then on, the division wants to have its calendar established about 16 months in advance.

Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972

pgould@freelancestar.com

CALENDAR BASICS

Two options remain in the running for the 2013–14 school calendar in Spotsylvania based on public input. The Calendar Committee recommended Option A.

OPTION A

START: Sept. 3

WINTER BREAK: Two weeks

SPRING BREAK: One week

END: June 13, 2014

GRADUATION: June 6 and 7, 2014

OPTION C

START: Aug. 26

WINTER BREAK: Two weeks

SPRING BREAK: One week

END: June 6, 2013

GRADUATION: May 30 and 31, 2014

 

WANT TO GO?

The Spotsylvania School Board is scheduled to decide the upcoming school calendar at Monday’s meeting.

The meeting will also include time for public comment on the budget for next year.

The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the administration building, 8020 River Stone Drive in Massaponax.

 

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