Parents meet at Aspen High on calendar
ASPEN – A group of parents opposed to changing the Aspen School District calendar hasn’t necessarily changed its tune, but it has lowered the decibel level a bit.
“This not a fight,” said parent Carmen Dowley, who spearheaded a meeting Wednesday billed as a “Campaign Against Year Round School.” “There are not battle lines; we are on the same team. We all want what is right for our kids.”
Nevertheless, Dowley and the dozen-plus parents gathered in the Aspen High School library classroom wanted answers.
“I’m not quite getting it,” said Leah Moriarty, mother of a recent AHS graduate and a current fifth-grader. “I went into this with an open mind, but … I just need someone to let me have it. Why would we do this? I need to know what I am getting; what is best for the kids.”
The Aspen School District had a preliminary discussion last month about whether it should change 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.
Wednesday’s opposition meeting was organized after some parents felt that their voices were not heard during a standing-room-only public forum on the subject in mid-November.
“I think we all came away with more questions than answers,” Dowley said. “Then we heard nothing; it was like a black hole. And that’s when people started to talk.”
That chatter led some to believe that the decision to change the calendar was “fait accompli,” in the words of several parents in attendance Wednesday.
“No decision has been made, and I thought we made that clear from the start,” responded school board President Fred Peirce. “This is a process. The communication forum was the first step in a lengthy conversation; we are a long way from making any decision.”
Though Wednesday’s discussion was not a school board meeting, Peirce and fellow board member Bob Glah were in attendance. Both admitted that perhaps the public forum did not clearly relay the district’s intent – to begin the discussion about the possibility of a calendar change – kicking off a series of unintended consequences.
“I think we got caught off-guard by the interest in this topic,” Glah said.
Peirce pointed out, however, that the fact remains the same: “This is a process. But I will acknowledge, in hindsight, that we could have done a better job of presenting the process.”
Regardless, after more than 90 minutes of discussion, the question remained: “How can our voices be heard?” asked one parent.
The idea of a blog was discussed, though many agreed it might not be the right forum for this type of discussion. Letters via e-mail were also discussed, but some questioned “the black hole” such missives can go into if they are not accessible to all board members and the community at large. In the end, many agreed letters to the editor of the local newspapers might be the best avenue for sharing viewpoints.
It was also agreed that the process might just need to play itself out.
Peirce said the next step in the process is for the District Accountability Committee’s calendar subcommittee to gather more public comments, data and research, and report back to the school board. The next school district-sponsored communication forum on the topic will likely be in January. Interested parents can follow the topic via the school district website at http://www.aspenk12.net.
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Pitkin County administrators are proposing a more than $142 million budget for 2020, which is about $6 million less than this year because of fewer construction projects and capital improvements.