Oswego 308 Discusses School Calendars for Next Two Years

At issue are when final exams are, an unequal amount of days per semester and what day of the week school should start.

How would you feel about your kids being in school on Columbus Day or the Wednesday before Thanksgiving? 

Would you prefer a mid-week start date or is Monday better? How about ending the semester in December or moving it back to January?

All were questions discussed at last week's Oswego 308 board of education meeting.

Superintendent Matthew Wendt proposed the board look at both the 2014-15 and the 2015-16 school calendars at the same time, rather than going  year-by-year as has been done in the past. 

The main issues that arose out of the discussion came down to what Wendt called an "elementary vs. secondary" perspective. The main points were:

Start date

When should school start? For the currently proposed calendars, that date is Monday, Aug. 18 or 17.

Board members were split on whether students should start on the first day of the week or mid-week.

Board president Bill Walsh felt that students, especially elementary, would not be able to handle a full week of school after the summer break.  "There are teachers who believe five days is too much [for the kids]."

Board members Ali Swanson and Danielle Paul disagreed. Paul said for students that have parents at work during the summer and they are in day care, they are used to the schedule. 

End of semester

The start date heavily impacts the end of the semester date, which seemed to be argued as more important at the secondary level.

Swanson, who teaches high school, said she wanted to keep the end of the semester in December, like it was switched to this year.

"If our focus is on student learning, we need to have those exams before the Christmas break," she said. "You can’t go away for two weeks... When you take a long break before exams, you have to review. It feels like you're wasting time. Those kids need a true break."

Paul said last year's exams in January "nearly killed my daughter," when she had to come back on Monday in the new year and take final exams a day later. 

Walsh, who had not favored the switch to semester break in December for this year, remained in favor of pushing the semester into January to balance the calendar days per semester. 

When asked about the exam schedule, Walsh asked why final exams were even needed. "The whole calendar is based on exams. If we’re testing and assessing throughout the semester you can then adjust your teaching program [to not have exams]."

Also brought up was the plan for more dual-credit classes, which rely on local college's break schedule. All colleges in the area that the school district works with or plans to end semester sometime in December. 

Days per semester

As of right now in the proposed calendar, the first semester has 84 days of in-school learning and the second semester has 91 (with a December semester end date). 

"That’s a substantial number of less days in high school and junior high level has to get through course material," said board member Brent Lightfoot. 

Suggestions to balance the schedule included extending winter break farther into January, going to school on Columbus Day and also going to school on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

"There is nothing that says we have to stay  out of school on that Wednesday," said Wendt of Thanksgiving.

He said though the school district would first look at Columbus Day.

He said that Veterans Day, which the district is in school for, is often used as a learning tool and there is an "enormous effort" to honor veterans through school assemblies. 

"However, I can’t say the same for Columbus Day," Wendt added.

 Board member Greg O'Neil expressed interest in those ideas, suggesting the district go forward with school in session on the Thanksgiving wednesday and Columbus Day and then giving students two additional days off in the spring semester.

"Then you'd have 89 and 86 days [per semester] and that seems a lot more balanced to me."

View the proposed breakdowns of the calendar year for the  2014-15 school  year and the 2015-2016 school year and share what you think the district should do. 

These are simply proposed calendars and will still need to be approved by the Board of Education at a later date.

Jane Enviere December 04, 2013 at 01:09 AM
It's ridiculous to start school that early in August. Regarding final exams, if they lose that much over a two week break, I'm afraid they didn't know the material that well anyway.
Noha Ayache December 04, 2013 at 09:32 AM
Is there a reason why school will start early in August? Why can't they start after Labor Day?
Walt Hines December 04, 2013 at 12:10 PM
What' the problem with this? There's plenty of time during June/July to take vacations, etc..... I don't think our students are in school long enough. Look at some of the other countries in the world and where their children are compared with us. We're lacking behind on all levels and being in instructional classrooms is one of them. My oldest who is at U of I had to take classes at WCC during her senior year just so she'd be prepared for their level of learning. (I might add she graduated in the top 10% of her class and had honors classes.) This came on the advise of a counselor at U of I. Many of our students are not prepared for the college level or any level as far at that goes. I personally would like to see longer school years.
Julie December 04, 2013 at 06:20 PM
I agree with Jane. I'm a high school teacher and I don't understand why after years of having exams in January we have to change it. Now that the high schools are on traditional schedule and the majority if classes last the whole school year, why must midterms have to take place in December? If students are supposed to remember the information until they take their final exam in May, what difference does it make when they take their midterm?
Anonymous December 05, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Despite being 40yrs old, I can remember like it was yesterday, how it totally sucked to stress over exams during Christmas break. Not to mention having to get back in the groove, do the exams and then start a new semester and a change of classes. I would have almost given my right arm to wrap things up in time for break and come back with a fresh start. I think half of the problem is either, "we did it this way just fine and now y'all should" or...I honestly wonder if some teachers and administrators forget (or never really initially grasped) how stressful testing can be for some students.
Weston December 07, 2013 at 07:51 PM
As a parent of a high school student, I have share how important it is that the semester ends and finals are taken in December. My student is graduating early (along with many other seniors this year) and enrolling immediately into college for the spring semester, which starts the second week of January. The college already isn't going to have the final transcripts until the second week of January by the time teachers get the final grade turned in and transcripts are sent. I can't imagine the crunch we'd have to go through if my student had to return to high school after winter break to take finals, hope the transcripts were sent in a timely manner, then move to college and hope to be able to get there before their semester starts. I'm grateful we start a few days earlier in August to accommodate the high school students who are moving forward with their academic career. Just something to consider when debating the importance of a few more days of summer break in August. There is more to consider than warm weather.
Karen Ayers December 08, 2013 at 01:16 PM
Our daughter is a freshman this year and is so glad to be taking mid terms before break. She's an honors student and competitive athlete that needs a brain break for the holidays. Like another said...it's the stress hanging over your head about those tests when they are after break. We really like having the day before Thanksgiving off...don't' care about Columbus Day. Also I think the district will experience low attendance on the Wed. before Thanksgiving considering the amount of people who travel during that week and will take their kids out of school anyway which really causes it to be somewhat of a wasted day. I think most folks appreciate that day off to shop/prepare/travel for Thanksgiving. Just my two cents...I know everyone has their own opinion.


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