A step closer to alternative Sumner calendar

Published 8:07 am Friday, January 28, 2011

Sumner’s chances of going to a year-round schedule improved Thursday after the Austin Public School Board approved a contract for an air conditioning system. The project, which will cost about $2 million, came in under budget as the district previously allotted $2.4 million. The HVAC air conditioning renovation was scheduled before Sumner staff came up with the alternative calendar proposal, although district officials have previously stated that a 45/15 schedule wouldn’t be possible without air conditioning in the late summer months.

A 45/15 schedule means students would attend school for 45 school days, or about nine weeks, and then go on break for about 15 school days, or about three weeks. Students would have the same amount of vacation days as other Austin kids, including a shorter summer vacation. Sumner would have to start school earlier than other schools while ending the school year when the rest of the district does. This is to make sure moving students through the district goes smoothly, according to Sumner Principal Sheila Berger.

Berger said preliminary response from January’s parent meeting on the topic was “overwhelmingly positive.” The meeting ran almost two hours, after parents who had questions stayed behind to discuss their concerns with John Alberts, the district’s educational director, David Krenz, district superintendent, Berger and other Sumner staff.

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Some parents had concerns the district couldn’t answer right away, such as how daycare would work, how having children on different schedules would work, whether excused absences would remain the same and whether students in Sumner would still go on district-wide field trips. While some policies will remain the same, such as excused absences and field trips, district officials could only provide anecdotal evidence on how parents in other schools with a 45/15 schedule dealt with child care and family schedules.

“Obviously because we’re the first school (in the district) to propose this, there’s just some unknowns that we’re going to have to figure out as we go,” Berger said.

Results from a parent survey handed out last week are still being tallied, according to Sumner staff. Parents were asked whether they supported the plan, needed more information or didn’t support the proposal.

Austin residents will get to chime in on the proposed year-round schedule next month.Community meetings will take place Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. and Feb. 10 at noon. Berger and other Sumner staff will give the same presentation to community members that parents have already heard, followed by a question and answer period.

Although many parents have a better picture of what Sumner’s schedule would look like, there’s still some confusion about alternative calendar learning.

“There is a summer vacation,” Berger said. “That’s still a misconception.”