Albert Lea residents circulate petition against 45/15 planPublished 11:10am Friday, August 29, 2014
By Hannah Dillon
ALBERT LEA — Parents in Albert Lea have responded to the idea of the proposed calendar for the 2015-2016 school year with a petition opposing it.
Jennifer Hanson started the petition on Change.org, an online petition site, as she was concerned about the impact the proposed calendar would have on the community. The calendar calls for an earlier start to the school year to reduce summer learning loss and allow more breaks for remedial learning.
Hanson said she talked to many parents, grandparents, families, children and teachers before starting this petition, which she put online on Aug. 21 and shared the link on her Facebook page.
Despite not having an extensive Facebook friend network in Albert Lea, Hanson said she emailed the link to friends without Facebook, encouraged her other Facebook friends to share the link and even called friends to let them know.
Hanson said she also contacted the school board with the information that she had created a petition. She said four of the emails came back undeliverable and said the only member who contacted her was school board president Linda Laurie.
There were many reasons for starting this petition, Hanson said, but the biggest constant was because she doesn’t feel there is enough data to support the calendar change.
Hanson said that much of the data used to promote the proposed calendar is based on year-round schooling versus a modified calendar, and she emphasized that these two calendars are very different.
“Year-round school is significantly different than what they’re proposing,” Hanson said. “It’s like comparing apples to oranges.”
According to Hanson, the proposed calendar would have approximately 127 to 177 learning days and 52 to 57 days of summer vacation. The 2014-2015 calendar has about 175 learning days and 62 days of summer vacation, she said.
According to a draft proposed calendar, there are 172 learning days and 55 days of summer vacation scheduled for 2015-2016.
The proposed calendar aims to close learning gaps, Hanson said, but she doesn’t believe that the five- to 10-day difference between the upcoming school year’s calendar and the proposed calendar’s summer vacation is substantial enough to change to the proposed calendar.
Hanson said that many parents are concerned about financial, job and child-care issues with the proposed calendar. She said she understands the school district is trying to close the learning gap but she doesn’t feel that the proposed calendar is the way to go.
“It’s really frustrating as a parent to talk about it, because it’s really hard to understand why they want to do it,” she said. “Five to 10 days is such an insignificant amount of time.”
Hanson noted she doesn’t have a different solution in place of the proposed calendar but she believes that more research needs to be done to find the right fit for the school district.
As of press time today, the petition had 154 signatures. Hanson’s goal is to collect 200 before presenting the signatures and comments to the school board, either at a meeting or via mail.
Austin benefits from 45/15 schedule
Austin’s Sumner Elementary and Woodson Kindergarten Center’s concurrent 45/15 classes started the fourth year of year-round school on July 29.
Austin Public Schools officials say it has worked well.
“One of the benefits is it doesn’t take as long for our kids to get back into the swing of things,” Sumner Principal Sheila Berger said last month. “By shortening that [break] we’ve definitely seen the benefits.”
According to Educational Services Director John Alberts, the year-round calendar is an option for a district-wide switch in Austin Public Schools. A group, which met in April and in May, is looking at different calendar options for the district to see whether a switch would be helpful or not.
The year-round calendar is one of several options on the table. The group is set to meet again in September and has a deadline of Dec. 8 to make a recommendation.
For more on Austin’s 45-15 classes, visit www.austindailyherald.com/?p=618578