AL board OKs traditional school calendar

Published 10:29 am Tuesday, March 3, 2015

By Hannah Dillon

ALBERT LEA — After a nearly three hour-long meeting, the Albert Lea School Board compromised on calendars for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years.

The board voted 5 to 1 for a traditional, post-Labor Day calendar for 2015-16 and a pre-Labor Day start calendar for 2016-17.

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The board looked at two calendars: a calendar with a pre-Labor Day start and a calendar with a post-Labor Day start.

Chairman Mark Ciota called for a vote six times; three for the pre-Labor Day calendar and three for the post-Labor Day calendar. The vote was split three to three each time, meaning no majority was reached and the vote failed. Ciota said he did not want to leave that night without approving a calendar.

The board members discussed their reasoning throughout the meeting. Board members Julie Johnson, Jill Marin and Dave Klatt voted for the post-Labor Day start and Ciota and board members Bill Leland and Linda Laurie voted for the pre-Labor Day start.

Marin said she could see pros and cons to each calendar, but the main issue for her was it was too late to implement an early start for the coming school year. She said many families have already made plans for the summer, but she would be open to considering an early start calendar another year.

Leland said he supported the pre-Labor Day calendar because he wanted to get the first semester finished before winter break. He noted that he spoke with many teachers and administrators who said the pre-Labor Day start would be ideal.

Johnson said no calendar will ever be perfect and some people will like one better than the other. She said she saw the benefits of the pre-Labor Day calendar but continued to go back to what she felt the community was saying, which was a desire for a traditional calendar.

Laurie said she apologized that the calendar process wasn’t the best from the start, but said it was a learning situation and she worked with what she knew at the time. She echoed Leland’s statements and said she had heard teachers wanted a pre-Labor Day start as well.

Klatt said he talked to many teachers and students and asked a lot of questions, and said there was no definite answer. Like Johnson, he said he saw the benefits of both. He stressed there are no winners or losers, but he wanted to see the community heal and to go forward with the right attitude.

After the calendar vote failed six times, Superintendent Mike Funk presented two new calendars to the board for consideration, one of which he prepared in case there was a split vote.

While the school board was originally looking at a 2015-16 calendar, it was mentioned that the board usually approves calendars for two years instead of just the next year. Ciota also said he would be interested in a compromise with a post-Labor Day start for 2015-16 and an early start for 2016-17.

The 2015-16 calendar Funk presented started a week before Labor Day, putting the start date Aug. 31. There were no snow days built in and school finished on June 2.

The second calendar Funk presented for 2016-17 started 11 days before Labor Day, which is Sept. 5, 2016. It ended on May 18, 2017, with a week at the end of the year saved for snow days. Funk said if the Legislature doesn’t approve any bills that allow schools to start before Labor Day, the board would have to revisit the early start calendar in the future.

Austin Public Schools is researching an 8:30 a.m. start time and what it calls a “balanced calendar” with breaks no longer than eight weeks. Even with the board’s support, any potential changes are still years away. If the board eventually approved a change for the district’s calendar or start time, school officials said the changes probably wouldn’t be implemented until 2016 or 2017 at the earliest.