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