Our View: Hayden students deserve better | SteamboatToday.com

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Our View: Hayden students deserve better

Hayden School District officials, buoyed by support from some parents, again have failed their students by rejecting changes to the school calendar that would provide more instructional days. Instead, the district appears poised for another school year of significantly fewer student contact days than Routt County's other two public school districts.

That might be fine if Hayden students were achieving at levels that didn't indicate room for significant improvement. But the district's Colorado Student Assessment Program test scores in recent years have shown consistent performance at, or in many cases, below the state average. That's particularly true in the writing, math and science portions of the standardized test.

So for the second straight year, the district's middle school and high school teachers admirably pushed for a calendar change that would give students additional classroom days during the academic year. This year's proposal called for nine additional days; last year's called for eight days.

And for the second straight year, a sincere desire on the part of secondary school staff to improve student achievement through additional instructional days was scuttled by the combination of an elementary school staff with no desire to change its schedule and a group of parents who protested the proposal at Hayden School Board meetings. What's particularly troubling is that elementary student achievement hasn't been so stellar as to justify maintaining the status quo — especially when that status quo means fewer student contact days than mandated by state law.

Hayden's school calendar for several years has called for fewer than 160 student contact days. But because the school has slightly longer school days — it extended the school day by 33 minutes in 2005 to allow for four-day school weeks for part of the academic year — it is able to meet the state's total student instructional hours requirement. By comparison, the Steamboat Springs School District has 172 student contact days, and the South Routt School District has 169 days. Hayden's 2012-13 school year will have only 156 student contact days.

Added days may not directly correlate to improved student achievement, but they can't possibly hurt. Hayden's existing calendar of a school year that starts after Labor Day and ends before Memorial Day isn't cutting it. And while we agree that last week's proposal for a split calendar — additional school days for secondary school student but not for elementary school students — posed its problems, we're not satisfied that Hayden School District officials, elementary school staff and even some parents are keeping the best interests of the students in mind.

It's time for some leadership in Hayden from someone other than the secondary school staff, and it should start with Superintendent Mike Luppes. Propose a school calendar that increases instructional days districtwide, and fight for it because it's what is best for all Hayden students.