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Board revises calendar for 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years
I can remember thinking as a kid that there must be some divine order to the way school calendars are constructed — the way Easter comes on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox ... or Election Day coming on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
It never occurred to me then that someone actually has to decide when the first and last days of school will be, how many days they'll have for winter break, and when to schedule those all-important (to somebody) "professional development" days.
Judging by Tuesday night's school board meeting, I now realize the process is only slightly less delicate than negotiating peace in the Middle East. It's almost mind boggling how many rules have to be followed and how many competing interests have to be served.
Of course, by the time the issue got to the school board's agenda, all of the heavy lifting had already been done behind the scenes. Still, it was interesting to hear Woodlawn School principal Jeanne Fridell and Kennedy School teacher Jill Anderson, co-chairs of the "calendar committee" (yes, that's who does it), explain how it all falls into place and how district officials do, in fact, listen to feedback from parents.
Fridell and Anderson were there to present suggested changes to the calendar for the next two academic years - changes the board approved.
For the upcoming 2013-14 school year, the new calendar makes two changes from what had been planned originally:
• Winter break: Typically, schools are out a total of eight days during the winter break. The first day of the break is usually the day before Christmas Eve. Then classes resume a day or two after New Year's Day. The problem this year is that Christmas Day and New Years Day both fall on Wednesdays, which meant classes were scheduled to resume on Friday, Jan. 3.
That apparently didn't sit well with people trying to schedule holiday travel. So the revised schedule calls for moving a staff development day from Sept. 3 to Jan. 3. The up side is that students will get a full two weeks off for winter break. But they will only get a three-day weekend for Labor Day instead of a four-day weekend.
• Sixth- and ninth-grade orientation: In the past, Lawrence schools have set aside a half-day before the regular first day of school as an orientation day for students moving up from elementary to middle school, or from middle school to high school. But that will change next year.
Instead, sixth- and ninth-grade students will have orientation for the first two hours on the first day of class, which is Wednesday, Aug. 14. Students in the upper grades at the middle and high schools will start their day two hours later. Elementary schools will have a regular day of class that day.
For the 2014-15 school year, the revised schedule calls for continuing that staggered day schedule for the first day of class, which will be Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014.
The new calendar calls for the regular two days of parent-teacher conferences in the fall semester, but only one day of conferences in the spring semester. Fridell and Anderson said participation is typically lower in the spring, so there is less need for two full days of conferences.
The 2014-15 calendar also allows for two make-up days for snow: April 17 and May 1. It was noted that April 17 is also the day of the Kansas University Relays, so if there is no need to make up a snow day, students and staff can attend the track meet.
Finally - and perhaps most controversially - the last day of class for the 2014-15 school year is scheduled for Thursday, May 28. That means students and staff will have to be at school the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after Memorial Day.