District finishing up calendars

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The Steamboat Springs School District is getting close to finalizing its calendar for the next two school years, and Superintendent Donna Howell doesn't foresee any significant changes to the format.

The district is likely to adopt a calendar that will continue to include a one-week mid-winter break in February followed by a one-week spring break in April, as has been the practice for the past several years.

Most school districts take a one- or two-week spring break in March, but Steamboat's tourism-based economy makes vacationing during the ski season difficult for many local families. To meet the needs of those families, the district adopted a calendar almost 10 years ago that pushed its spring break to the end of April -- one week after the close of the Steamboat Ski Area.

That schedule allows families to have a week to shut down their businesses and tie up loose ends before spring break begins, said Jeff Little, owner of the Ore House at the Pine Grove and the business community representative on the district's calendar committee.

"It really works well with our community," Little said, adding that roughly 70 percent of the community has jobs directly or indirectly related to the tourism industry.

But the April spring break does pose problems with mandatory ACT testing for high school juniors. The official ACT test date sometimes falls during the week of Steamboat's spring break, forcing students to take the test on one of two scheduled make-up dates. Students who don't make up the test hurt the high school's rating on state-issued School Accountability Reports, Howell said.

The April break also can affect students participating in spring sports because their seasons often are under way by the end of March or beginning of April.

"No matter what we do, there's going to be someone who's not overjoyed," Howell said about the calendar. "It's one of those no-win situations."

The best the district can do is respond to the wishes of the majority of the community, she said. A calendar survey conducted two years ago is the guide by which Howell and the calendar committee gauges the community's desire. According to the results of that survey, which was sent to district employees and parents in February 2003, 74 percent of the 663 respondents said they prefer a school calendar with a one and a half-week winter break followed by a one-week mid-winter break and a one-week April spring break.

After the calendars for the next two academic years are approved by the School Board, Howell said she'll re-examine the possibility of implementing late start districtwide. Late start, which is held once a month at the high school, provides staff additional time for professional development because school begins 100 minutes later than usual on those days.

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