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The Examiner U-46 News Feed

District U-46 Board ratifies 2018-19 calendar


By Seth Hancock
  The Board of Education in School District U-46 approved the 2018-19 school year calendar at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 18.
  The calendar mirrors the tentative calendar presented in November with just one change, that being the final day of classes which is now set for Wednesday, May 22, 2019 instead of the original Thursday, May 23 proposal. Melanie Meidel, who heads human resources for the district, said an April professional development day was moved to May 23.
  The calendar aligns with this year’s calendar with the first day of classes set for Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018 and a week later on Aug. 22 for preschool. There are 173 attendance days and 184 teacher attendance days.
  Thanksgiving break is set to start on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018 the last day of classes prior to winter break is Friday, Dec. 21, 2018 and that break will go through Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 the final week of March (25 through 29) is set for spring break and high school graduation is set for Saturday, May 25, 2019. If all five emergency days are used, the final day of school will be Thursday, May 30.
  The calendar received a 5-1 vote, board member Jeanette Ward voting no. Board member Traci Ellis was not in attendance.
  Ward has consistently opposed the calendar over her three votes on the topic while on the board as well as in prior years as a member of the public since the district has started the school year earlier in August over the past five years. Former Superintendent Jose Torres initially wanted the earlier start date and said he wanted to look into yearlong schooling.
  Since starting school earlier, the district has surveyed the public three times, and each time the public has opposed the earlier start date. Last year, the board’s majority supported the earlier start date because it would allow high school students to take finals before winter break.
  “The early start date has been rejected every time it has been put before the community for their opinion, and last year we were guessing what the community thought with respect to having finals before (winter break),” Ward said. “We didn’t ever take a survey on that, and I thought we were going to take a survey this year.”
  The administration has said that part of the process in creating the calendar is trying to align with surrounding school districts. Ward said that D303 in St. Charles starts classes a week after U-46.
  Last year, board member Sue Kerr joined Ward in voting against this school year’s calendar as she followed the wishes of the public in the survey which showed 73 percent of 4,715 respondents opposing the earlier start date. This year, she supported the calendar saying there’s no “perfect calendar.”
  “It is hard because I know our elementary parents would rather start later, but I know our high school kids want to get their exams and their first semester over with by the end of December,” Kerr said.
  Casey Pearce, the board’s student advisor and senior at Bartlett High School, said she supports having finals over with before winter break when the calendar was presented in November, and she inquired as to why some wanted a later start date.
  Donna Smith, the board’s president, said last year’s survey had comments and “that week makes a difference to them for various reasons.”
  “Also the original intention of having that early start date when Dr. Torres presided was to move to year-round school,” said Ward, who has opposed year-round school.
  Board member Phil Costello supported the calendar primarily for its consistency as it aligns with the past five years, but he said with the public opposition he’s “a little bit troubled with the early start.” He said students’ attending on the first day of school is important saying he’s seen studies suggesting it leads to better attendance throughout the year, and he worries a start date that the public opposes may hinder attendance on the first day.
  Costello also said he wants the administration to return to surveying the public next year. Smith said that would require a separate board discussion.

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