Updated 2021-22 academic calendar splits schedule, maintains elimination of early release days
Aspen Board of Education mulls community feedback, schedule changes
There’s no shortage of community input when it comes to the 2021-22 Aspen School District calendar: a recent community feedback survey posted on the district website has garnered hundreds of responses, according to district Superintendent David Baugh.
That feedback has led to some changes to the proposed 2021-22 academic calendar, Baugh said during Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting. The revisions primarily impact day-to-day scheduling for students, according to Baugh’s presentation.
A new, split schedule moves the elementary school hours earlier in the day: students in kindergarten through fourth-grade would arrive at 8 a.m. and be released at 3 p.m., with teacher hours from 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.
The middle school and high school schedules would shift later in the day: students in fifth-grade through 12th-grade would begin classes at 8:45 a.m. and wrap up at 3:45 p.m.; teachers would begin at 8 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.
That’s a departure from the schedule that Baugh proposed two weeks ago, which would include a universal start time at 8 a.m. and release time at 3:30 p.m. for all elementary, middle and high school students. (Both the original and new proposed calendars allocate dedicated days for professional development.)
The Cottage preschool would remain on its usual 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. schedule in both the original and new proposed versions of the school calendar.
The latest changes are the result of two factors, according to Baugh: bus schedules and research on school start times that suggests a benefit for older students to start later in the morning.
“First of all, a single bell schedule — we really like (it) if we can do it, but we run into a lot of logistics challenges. … We have a real shortage of bus drivers,” he said.
The 45-minute split creates a turnaround window for school buses to complete multiple trips every morning and afternoon and transport more students.
Plus, Baugh noted, “there is a significant educational research underpinning to these start times which is fortuitous.”
“We really want to get the feedback from the community around the split the schedule,” he said. “We are moving heaven and earth trying to get more drivers but Reghan (Mahaffey, transportation director) has been trying hard all year on that one.”
Both calendars maintain the elimination of Wednesday early-release days that Baugh proposed two weeks ago — an “elephant in the room,” board secretary Dwayne Romero described it.
Nixing those days would alleviate the burden of extra Wednesday child care for working parents and would help ensure more time in the classroom for students to help remedy a “COVID slip” in academic performance due to pandemic-related learning interruptions, according to Baugh.
But it also comes at a loss of free daylight hours for students to pursue high-performance competitive athletics or explore extracurricular activities; teachers typically use the time for planning.
Though the community feedback process is still underway and accepting responses, board members indicated that there are already a number of passionate proponents and opponents represented in the comments received. The latest round of feedback comes after some board members expressed a concern about a lack of consensus on the matter at a meeting April 6.
“My guess is it’s a little bit all across the board on the early release, but trying to read through those comments, both sides are strongly represented with strong views,” said board treasurer Katy Frisch. “There’s athletics and the whole child but there’s also, it is a huge burden to many working families.”
Baugh acknowledged both angles and emphasized that his team has worked for months to weigh the options and gather feedback from stakeholders who may feel one way or another — a process that will continue over the next two weeks. The changes are by no means “arbitrary and capricious,” he said, nor is the schedule set in stone.
“I do think it’s important to recognize that we’re not asking for a schedule that’s wildly different from anything that’s occurring in other parts of Colorado and that sort of thing,” Baugh said.
Even so, Baugh recognized the proposed calendar may feel like a departure from the Aspen School District norm of early release days, which have been in place for more than a decade; the new split schedule also differs from the calendar presented two weeks ago.
“Whatever we go with, some folks are going to be disappointed and some folks will be happy,” Baugh said. “We’re going to try to thread that needle as best we can, because we’ve taken all this feedback, we’ve made some decisions, we’ve had to do in a slightly — not slightly — in a dramatically different direction.”
The board will review the calendar again at its May 4 meeting. Community members can review the proposed changes and provide feedback at bit.ly/ASD-calendarfeedback.
Board of Education president Suzy Zimet issued a statement at the beginning of Tuesday night’s meeting to apologize for comments she made last week during an Aspen High School staff meeting discussion about the work of an equity committee.
“I inadvertently used some insensitive language. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize and stress that both I and the board share the Aspen Education Association’s goals of inclusion and equity for all in our school district,” Zimet said. “I hope that anyone concerned with my comments will listen to them in their full context and appreciate that while they may have been stated inartfully, their intent was to suggest that our students learn about racial prejudice in our nation, both past and present and the ways in which it continues to manifest itself.”
“It saddens me greatly to learn that some felt hurt by my choice of words,” she said. “I am truly sorry for that. … I specifically apologize for having said ‘Blacks’ instead of ‘Black people,’ for not having included other people of color in my statements, for inadvertently giving the perception of a binary us and them and for the hurt feelings my words seem to have caused as nothing could have been further from my intent.”
Zimet shared that “racism is not an abstract concept” to her because she has four Black siblings and has seen the impacts and “irreparable harm” of racism through their experiences and those of their children. She emphasized education and equity efforts as a way to address implicit biases and racism.
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The school district calendar impacts — and is impacted by — a wide range of factors from academics to extracurriculars to transportation.