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Article updated: 2/4/2013 10:33 PM

Some parents unhappy with proposed U-46 calendar

By Tara García Mathewson

A proposal to start classes a week earlier for the 2013-14 academic year in Elgin Area School District U-46 drew criticism Monday night at the school board meeting.

The proposed calendar includes keeping school in session on Veterans Day and marking the first day of class Aug. 14. Several people spoke about the lack of parent engagement in the decision-making, noting the proposed changes came as a complete surprise.

The board first heard a presentation about the calendar at the Jan. 28 board meeting. They will vote on the 2013-14 schedule Feb. 25.

Angela Kuhns, a parent of four U-46 students across three different elementary and middle schools, said the calendar change would not benefit the majority of students.

The early start date originally was proposed to time the end of the first semester with winter break. Larkin High School student Cesar Dimas said Monday the change would help him and his fellow high schoolers avoid taking final exams after vacation, once many have forgotten part of the material.

But Kuhns said more of the 40,000 U-46 students are in elementary and middle schools and the start date would negatively affect them and their families. Starting and ending earlier would make for hotter classrooms in August and mean parents need additional child care before summer camps start, parents said.

"I know you're not going to please everybody; you never will," Kuhns said. "But ... considering one group of the district to improve test scores just seems you're not looking at the whole picture."

A staff development committee was most involved in creating the proposed calendar. U-46 Chief of Staff Tony Sanders said in his six years in the district, there has never been a parent survey before recommending such changes.

"We try to get it done early enough so families can adjust to the upcoming year's calendar," Sanders said. This year, the board vote will happen even earlier than normal to give people in the district more time to plan, Superintendent Jose Torres said last week.

The Veterans Day change is meant to expose more students to holiday ceremonies and events during school hours. It was supported by multiple veterans groups at last week's meeting, though three people spoke against it Monday.

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