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U-46 calendar set for 2020-21 academic year

By Seth Hancock
  The 2020-2021 school year in School District U-46 will start on Wednesday, Aug. 12 under the calendar proposal presented to the Board of Education at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 16.
  Pre-school would start a week later on Wednesday, Aug. 19. The final day of classes is set for Monday, May 24, or Tuesday, June 1 is all five emergency days are used, and high school graduation is set for Saturday, May 29.
  In total, there are 176 instructional days for students and 184 teacher attendance days with eight days designated as institute days.
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the calendar is a “very similar calendar structure as we’ve had in prior years,” and this would be the eighth straight year of earlier starts despite overwhelming opposition from the public which has supported later starts in surveys. No survey was done this year.
  The earlier start began in the 2013-2014 under former Superintendent Jose Torres who said he wanted to look into yearlong schooling. Since then, the reason given by the district for the early start was to allow high school students to take finals before the Christmas break.
  Sanders has previously admitted the district’s own data shows that “it’s not made a significant impact over these past few years academically” having finals before the break and students are “going to have that stress whether it’s before winter break or after winter break.”
  In a memo response to a question from Sue Kerr, the board’s president, the district stated: “Although some teachers may give an end of the semester assessment, we have worked to eliminate traditional ‘finals’ as a practice.”
  The district also provided attendance data which Sanders claimed “demonstrates that starting before Labor Day has not had an impact. We still have our highest attendance rate that first couple days, first week of school, and then it slowly tapers off a little bit.”
  However, that data only provided attendance rates for the current school year and last year, both which had the earlier start dates. No data was provided for attendance from when there was a later start date.
  Thanksgiving break would start next year on Wednesday, Nov. 25 with students returning on Monday, Nov. 30. The first semester would finish on Friday, Dec. 18 and Christmas break would start on Monday, Dec. 21 with students returning on Monday, Jan. 4.
  Spring break is set to start on Monday, March 29 with students returning on Tuesday, April 6 after a spring holiday on Monday, April 5 which is the day after Easter. This aligns with area school districts according to Sanders.
  Board member Kate Thommes said that the spring break does not align with Elgin Community College and “a lot of students at ECC are parents in U-46,” and board member Melissa Owens said this would affect dual-credit students from U-46. Sanders said those dual-credit students who attend classes at ECC would follow ECC’s calendar while Josh Carpenter, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said they would look further into it.
  Owens asked about making Columbus Day (Monday, Oct. 12) an attendance day or changing the focus of the day. Columbus Day has been made a national issue by various left-wing activists in recent years.
  Sanders said it’s “a state legal holiday and it’s also recognized in multiple contracts,” and it would require more work for the board and administration to negotiate with union groups. Suzanne Johnson, deputy superintendent of instruction, said other districts have changed the name which could be an option in order to avoid offending.
  U-46 does not list major Christian holidays, such as Christmas and Easter, but has in the past recognized the holidays of other religions on its calendar.




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