School calendar hasn’t changed, officials say
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The Aspen School District’s calendar committee is trying to clarify the future of the local school year, based on a “misrepresentation” of plans printed Tuesday in The Aspen Daily News.
The article reported that the school year would eventually start a month earlier and wouldn’t include a spring break. But committee officials said Wednesday this is just one option for the school year, and no decision was made by the school board.
Susan McKinney, chair of the calendar committee and head of the high school math department, spoke to the board on Tuesday night to discuss several possible calendars.
According to district Superintendent Tom Farrell, who also serves on the calendar committee, McKinney presented three sample calendars to the school board: one based only on academic needs, one built around the needs of parents in the community, and one based on a compromise of the first two samples.
“She wanted to get direction from the board, to say, ‘What direction do you want us to go in?'” Farrell said. “The board told us to meet the needs of parents to the best of our abilities, but to make the calendar academically sound.”
McKinney said she received several calls from teachers and parents on Wednesday, based on what she said was “misrepresentation” in the newspaper article, and she tried to clear things up.
“None of these calendars [presented] were up for adoption ? none of these were even a proposal of what we want,” she said. “And nobody ever said we wouldn’t have a spring break. That was never an intention. We said spring break couldn’t be in April because it would interfere with academics.”
The calendar based solely on academic interests was the sample that included an Aug. 6 start date, in order to end first semester before winter break. The calendar looking at parents’ interests included a fall break in October and a spring break in March.
Parents have often asked the school board to alter when students receive breaks, saying school breaks conflict with large number of visitors flooding Aspen and parents are often to busy at resort-related jobs to be with their children.
The “community interest” calendar also works to accommodate the Music Associates of Aspen, which uses the middle school for teaching.
A third calendar was presented as a compromise. It included starting school on Aug. 18, a weeklong break in October, a short Thanksgiving break and a two-week recess for the holidays. The first semester would end around the third week of January, and then a spring break would be held in late March. School would end around June 4.
“It was just a discussion ? there has not been a decision made,” said school board member Jill Uris. “They just wanted to get the general feel of what we think about the calendar. The board said academics are the more important reason to make a calendar, but we’re also very aware of the community’s needs.”
Farrell said he would never support a calendar based only on academics and nothing else.
“Academic achievement is important to me, but I don’t think you can base a calendar on any set testing program ? you just can’t do that,” Farrell said. “When you look at a calendar on the surface, there’s no way you could realize how many people are affected by changes, like the International Baccalaureate tests or athletics. Having spring break the last week in April might be the best for parents, but that’s the week the International Baccalaureate tests start.
“There are so many different issues you have to take a look at, and it has to be in the best interest of all the students.”
McKinney and Farrell said the calendar committee will hold more meetings and try to finalize a proposal for the school board. They expect to be able to present a final calendar proposal to the school board at its February meeting.
The committee comprises two parents, one teacher from each school, the high school athletic director and Farrell.
[Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]
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