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U46 approves earlier school  calendar, class on Veterans Day

Updated: March 28, 2013 6:23AM

ELGIN — After delays and revisions and weeks of comment from the community, the Elgin School District U46 Board of Education has unanimously approved an earlier 2013-14 school calendar.

That came Monday night at a packed school board meeting.

The new calendar moves the start of the school year to Monday, Aug. 19, and the end to Tuesday, May 27. It also ends finals before winter break, shortens Thanksgiving break, and includes class on Veterans Day.

“There will invariably be people who are pleased with the outcome, and there will invariably be people who are not pleased with the outcome,” school board member Amy Kerber said.

“I appreciate the amount of staff work that has gone on the last three weeks to compile all the feedback and to go back to the drawing board on the calendar.”

U46 officials first presented the proposed calendar Jan. 28 at the regular school board meeting. A number of veterans expressed their support for teaching students the significance of Veterans Day in class on the holiday, and the board decided to delay a vote on the changes.

That’s because the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday shortened the time between that meeting and the next from two weeks to one — and because Kerber said at the time that these would be “significant” changes for the community to absorb.

Opinions during 30-minute public comment session at the following board meeting were mixed; and days later, Superintendent Jose Torres sent a recorded hone message to all parents and staff about the proposed changes. The district also contacted parent-teacher organizations as well as park districts and libraries within U46.

“We didn’t want to do a survey. We just wanted feedback,” U46 Chief of Staff Tony Sanders said.

Email response

The district received 654 emails in response to that call by Feb. 20, according to Sanders. That’s 1.4 percent of all people who had been invited to give feedback, he said.

Board member Traci O’Neal Ellis called that a “low response … given the commotion.”

Of those emails, 551 were about the earlier start and end to the school year, which only 35 percent supported, Sanders said. That’s why the revised calendar starts five days later than originally proposed.

This school year, class started on Wednesday, Aug. 22.

Opinion was split nearly 50-50 on shortening Thanksgiving break from five days to three, he said.

The rest of the changes largely had support from the community: 70 percent supported moving up parent-teacher conferences, 69 percent supported ending the first semester before winter break, and 55 percent backed having class on Veterans Day, he said.

On Monday, one resident suggested doing away with the Columbus Day holiday instead of Veterans Day, calling a holiday celebrating Columbus “offensive.”

U46 Legal Counsel Miguel Rodriguez said the district could not swap class on Veterans Day for another holiday because that had been negotiated in its contracts with its unions. It would have to reopen all those contracts, Rodriguez said.

Surrounding school districts such as Carpentersville-based Community Unit School District 300, Burlington Central Community School District 301 and Huntley Consolidated School District 158 all have class on Veterans Day.

Two other parents spoke during public comments against the earlier calendar, mostly about the impact on staff and families’ summer plans.

But, Kerber said, “While it will not please everybody, I do think this is a modification that is a fair modification and demonstrates responsiveness to the concerns we’ve heard.”

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