Aspen school calendar group divided on ‘continuing conversation’ |

Aspen school calendar group divided on ‘continuing conversation’

ASPEN – The Aspen School District committee charged with delving further into the idea of changing the current school calendar is split on whether the discussion should continue.

Members of the calendar subcommittee met with the Aspen School Board on Tuesday to share their views on the topic. The seven-member subcommittee was directed in December to review and summarize input received on the calendar debate thus far, as well as other pertinent data, and report back with their findings.

“What we learned is that you can find data to support either side of the debate. But, in the end, it looks like we are split on how we believe the board should proceed,” said committee member Terri Anuszewski, noting that e-mails and letters sent to school officials were similarly split on the topic.

The Aspen School Board launched a discussion this fall about potentially changing the school calendar from a traditional September-June model to one that comprises a nine-week on, two-week off schedule with a seven-week summer break, or some variation therein. A standing-room-only public forum on the subject in mid-November drew passionate parents on both sides of the issue.

Since that first meeting, district officials have said repeatedly that they are on a “fact-finding mission” about what an alternative, or balanced, calendar would look like and whether it makes sense for Aspen; they say the impetus for the discussion is concern over regression from year to year and overall student achievement.

According to Anuszewski, three subcommittee members said they were not in favor of continuing the conversation based on the fact that no concrete data related to academic achievement and alternative calendars could be found; three members were interested in continuing the conversation with the caveat that the calendar presented by the board as an example be tweaked to eliminate back-to-back school breaks in December and January; and one member fell in the middle.

As no decisions about the calendar have been made, Tuesday’s work session was strictly informational. School board members questioned committee members about what, if any, case studies they found in support of a balanced school calendar. They also asked what areas of concern cropped up in correspondence from parents. Lastly, they asked what steps district officials were taking to collect input from teachers and staff.

In reference to the first two questions, committee members reiterated that no concrete data could be found to support or shoot down a change. They also relayed that parents had three chief concerns: sports, IB and summer jobs. In reference to the third concern, Aspen Superintendent John Maloy said he has met with faculty twice, and was in process of sending out another survey to gauge their opinions.

In the end, school board members thanked members of the calendar subcommittee for their work and said they would take their input, along with that gathered at a Jan. 19 public forum, into consideration before making any decisions.

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