Wednesday, April 8, 2015

School Calendar Nearing Resolution

I want to thank everyone for their patience as we awaited final news regarding the start of the 2015-2016 school year! In most years, the academic calendar would have long been resolved by now. While the number of phone calls we have fielded in the last two weeks has begun to increase, you all have been gracious in your understanding of our dilemma.

To briefly recap: On December 9th, we received news from the Iowa Department of Education that automatic early start waivers would no longer be granted. In January a new waiver process was unveiled that set the bar for receiving a waiver beyond the reach of the Hudson Community School District. We chose at that point to decline applying for a waiver and instead await a legislative solution. In the intervening months, two separate bills addressing the school start date were proposed in the legislature, one setting the start date at August 23rd (which means August 24th because we are not starting school on a Sunday); the other completely repealing the law. The bill that called for complete repeal would likely have been vetoed and it became apparent that the legislature did not have the votes necessary to override a veto. 

Some thought that we should just follow the current law which states that school can start no sooner than a day in the week in which September 1st falls. To quantify that for everyone, that would have put our start date at August 31st. We were prepared to do just that, but we also believe an earlier start that aligns with local colleges is a better option for us--especially for our high school students that participate in concurrent enrollment classes. While the August 24th date is better for the start of first semester, it could cause some challenges for the start of the second semester. It is important to remember that high schools semesters are longer than college semesters. 

Late last week, both chambers of the legislature voted to set the school start date for August 23rd. After some political maneuvering and a brief delay, the bill was sent to the Governor for his signature. Because of this, we are now finally prepared to take action on the school calendar. The Board of Directors will hold a public hearing on the school calendar at our regular April board meeting, which will be held on April 20th at 6:00 p.m. in the board room. If you click the calendar icon to the left you will see an enlarged view of this calendar. 

Now then, if you think back a few months ago, you may recall we conducted a brief survey to get your input into the development of our school calendar. Essentially you were asked your thoughts and opinions as to whether or not we should retain spring break, and if we should start school on a Thursday, as has been past practice; or move the start of the school year to a Monday. The context that was provided for this question assumed that the two options being presented for discussion were either August 31st or September 3rd. Both groups surveyed concluded overwhelmingly that school should start on Monday. Since those dates ultimately do not correlate to our first day of school (which is August 24th), those data are not included for further discussion.

The spring break question however, was quite interesting. The faculty and staff favored retaining spring break at a margin of almost 75% to 25%. The community favored retaining spring break as well, but at a much closer margin. Those data are included here and reflect that 53.5% favor spring break while 46.5% are in favor of eliminating it. I should point out that faculty and staff had a sample size of 32, while the community and parents numbered 127. In survey research samples sizes of 26%-40% are generally considered statistically significant. Obviously the larger the sample the more reliable the results. 

Within this calendar are a few items the Board will take into further consideration. For example, you will notice the day before Thanksgiving is scheduled as a full vacation day. We may consider altering the schedule for that day. 

Winter break in this calendar is scheduled for December 23-January 1 with students returning on Monday, January 4th. Unfortunately the first semester is not scheduled to end until Friday, January 8th. This is contrary to previous calendars where we have been able to finish first semester in conjunction with the winter break. 

Finally, graduation for the class of 2016 is scheduled for May 22nd, which is the comparable week from this year. We are fortunate that graduation didn't have to move to Memorial Day weekend, which would have been the case had we started on August 31st! With this calendar, the last day of school is scheduled for May 25th, barring no snow days.

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