Aspen school calendar to remain the same |

Aspen school calendar to remain the same

ASPEN – The Aspen School District will not adopt an alternative calendar for the 2011-12 school year, or any year in the near future, the school board decided Monday.

“I feel strongly that, as a board, we are a reflection of our community,” said school board member Bob Glah. “We have heard some specific arguments against a balanced calendar, and some general arguments in support of it. And they are good arguments.

“But, in the end, I can find no evidence directly in support of this for our district.”

The school board launched a discussion in the 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.

The board unanimously decided Monday to end that conversation, directing Aspen Superintendent John Maloy to begin working on a traditional calendar for the next two years. They remained open to ‘tweaking’ the calendar to better mesh with Aspen’s resort schedule, however.

In a discussion that lasted nearly 90 minutes, all five school board members offered their take on the issue. In the end, all agreed that while important issues had been raised as part of the debate, there was not enough evidence to support a change. They also agreed that Aspen’s situation is unique in that it is a small district where the lack of school options creates a scenario where a balanced calendar might be an impossibility.

“I don’t believe there is a district like ours where the whole system would be affected by a calendar change,” said school board member Charla Belinski, noting that in districts she found with alternative calendars, none had high schools operating this way and that different options were available at different primary schools “We are unique, and it just might not make sense because what’s good for one age group may not be good for another.”

In addition, several board members referred to the fact that if the impetus for change was student regression over the long summer break, teachers were not in agreement. According to a survey of teachers conducted earlier this month, only 10 percent believed that the time spent reviewing material with students after returning from summer break was of “great concern.” Another 23 percent said the review time was of “some concern.” The majority, 67 percent of respondents, felt that the time spent reviewing material was of “very little or no concern.”

“This tells me that the retention issue is not as big of a concern for teachers as we might have believed by the anecdotal evidence,” said school board member Laura Kornasiewicz. “And with that, I am not sure we can necessarily base a calendar on that concern.”

Still, Kornasiewicz did take issue with some community comments regarding the proposed calendar change.

“I am not necessarily of the belief, however, that ‘if it’s not broken, why fix it?’ I can’t go there,” she said. “We are always striving to be better; there is always room for improvement. We need to provide the best service to all 1,727 students.”

School Board President Fred Peirce, who was the most supportive of the balanced calendar idea, agreed that change can be a good thing. But, ultimately, he sided with his fellow board members, saying, “I am not prepared to fight this battle if no one else is.”

The board did not close the door, however, to some “tweaks” of the traditional calendar, including the creation of school breaks that coincide with the town’s resort schedule. In particular, they noted the Steamboat Springs school calendar and the Eagle-area’s newly adopted calendar, which include a fall break and a spring break after the lifts close.

The board further directed Maloy to take into consideration the many points raised about improving student achievement when creating the new school calendar.

“The calendar isn’t a solution. It is part of the solution, but it is not the solution,” Maloy responded. “So I think there are ways we can make improvements to the calendar, but there are also ways we can work within the confines of our instructional day and year to make improvements.”

Maloy will now work with his staff to create a two-year calendar for consideration at a February school board meeting; the goal is to have a calendar approved by the end of March.

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