School days drafted | SteamboatToday.com

School days drafted

Students get MLK Day off, more five-day weeks in 2008-09 calendar

Mike McCollum

— The draft of the Steamboat Springs School District’s 2008-09 academic calendar creates more five-day school weeks and gives students Martin Luther King Jr. Day off. But despite the objection of some local families, spring break may continue to fall the week after the Steamboat Ski Area closes.

The District Accountability Committee is charged with developing a calendar and submitting the proposal to the Steamboat Springs School Board, which plans to vote on the calendar at its March 10 meeting.

Committee Chairwoman Laura Stout said the calendar proposal is an accurate representation of community desires, despite concerns raised by some local families who may be too busy closing down their tourism-driven businesses to leave town on vacation during spring break.

Liz Wahl, director of food and beverage for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said many of her employees are upset they may not be able to spend spring break with their families.

Spring break is scheduled for April 13 to 17, 2009. Wahl said the ski area is expected to close April 12 next year.

“We need a week to wrap up on the mountain : we can’t turn the key and walk away,” said Wahl, a mother of a Steamboat Springs Middle School student. “It’s upsetting to me and everyone I know. We can’t take Christmas holiday off with our children, or Blues Break, either. Spring break is the one break we have been able to take.”

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Stout said the biggest issue involves the timing of spring break and whether it coincides with the state’s mandatory ACT test date for all high school juniors.

“The problem is, spring break falls right at the time of the ACT testing at the high school,” she said. “It only gives the kids the make-up day in May to do the ACT test. We’d really like them to have the option to do it on the state mandated day.”

Stout said the committee leaned heavily on a 2007 survey that was distributed at parent/teacher conferences at all four school district schools to create the schedule.

“In the future, we plan to do a more in-depth survey, but I believe the calendar well represents teachers, parents and school district administrators,” she said. “The committee is not a random group of people with agendas or interests.”

The accountability committee includes community members; parents; teachers; administrators from each of the district’s four schools; the district’s director of curriculum and instruction, JoAnne Hilton Gabeler; and Superintendent Sandra Smyser.

In its draft calendar proposal, the committee also recommends continuing changes implemented for the 2007-08 school year, including one full week of vacation at Thanksgiving and two full weeks of vacation spanning the end of December and beginning of January.

A major change proposed for next year is giving students Martin Luther King Jr. Day off. Stout said that change should have been implemented sooner.

“We absolutely will make sure we get MLK Day a school day off,” she said. “We heard from the community loud and clear, and this is something we will not budge on. It’s something we have overlooked in the past, but it will never be overlooked again.”

Menola Upshaw, president of the Denver branch of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People, said all schools should honor the day as a holiday off of school.

“If it’s a national holiday, it should be a holiday for everyone,” she said. “But no matter what schools do on that day, his name should be mentioned to students so they know what he stood for and what his philosophy was.”

Other changes proposed by the committee include increasing the number of five-day weeks from 25 weeks this year to 29 weeks next year, and better aligning days off with teacher workdays.

School Board member Lisa Brown, the School Board’s representative on the committee, said the committee has found a good balance between weighing the academic implications of the calendar and supporting students and families.

“It’s difficult to balance all those needs, but we have spent so much time thinking about what are good solutions and determining what are the best results for kids,” she said.

– To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

or e-mail mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com

Proposed calendar

Steamboat Springs School District’s proposed 2008-09 academic calendar

First day

Staff: Aug. 19

Students: Aug. 25

Last day

Staff: June 8

Students: June 5

Thanksgiving Break: Nov. 24 to 28

December Break: Dec. 22 to Jan. 2

Blues Break: Feb. 16 to 20

Spring Break: April 13 to 17