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U46 changes school calendar after hearing public feedback

Updated: March 15, 2014 6:26AM

“Start the school year later” — that was the message that came in loud and clear when School District 46 asked for feedback on its calendar for 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years.

In a memo, U46 Chief of Staff Tony Sanders said that as a result of the comments, U46 administration will recommend revised calendars in which the 2014-2015 school year would start Aug. 18 and the 2015-16 school year would begin Aug. 17. These dates are five days later than the first proposal.

The calendar recommendations are expected to go before the school board for discussion on Feb. 24. A vote would not occur until at least March 3.

The response was overwhelming. According to information from the school district, 90 percent of the 1,688 of people who responded opposed the earlier start.

District administrators also had proposed that preschool start the same day as the rest of the elementary, middle and high schools. Abby Milone, U46 communications specialist, said administrators and teachers wanted to move the preschool start to maximize the learning time with the youngest — and often the most at-risk — learners.

But after hearing from the community, the start date for preschool was moved a week later to Aug. 25 in 2014-15 school year.

The administrators’ rationale behind the initial early start date was so high school final examinations and the end of the first semester would occur prior to winter break, Milone said. “Starting earlier is to ensure balanced semesters where finals occur before winter break. Having exams before the break also provides us with a more accurate assessment of what students have learned without the distraction of a long break.”

Under the new calendars, the first semester still ends before winter break. The second semester just would have seven more days than the first.

The calendar survey raised numerous questions particularly about holidays in the school year. So the district created a list of frequently asked questions that is available on the district website.

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