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Article updated: 2/25/2013 10:56 PM

U-46 board OKs revised calendar with Aug. 19 start date

By Tara García Mathewson

Elgin Area School District U-46 board of education members unanimously voted to approve a 2013-14 school calendar Monday night that includes a start date of Aug. 19 and will keep students in school on Veterans Day.

The calendar was originally presented to the board Jan. 28 but was later revised, reflecting input from parents, students, teachers and community members. The community leapt into the conversation upon hearing the school year would start Aug. 14 -- about a week early -- to give high schoolers a chance to take their final exams before winter break.

Parents and teachers spoke against the earlier start date, many saying they already have August travel plans or offering concerns about summer camps and park district schedules.

Paul Duffy, a guidance counselor in District 211 and a parent of a Larkin High School student, told the school board ending the first semester before winter break would cut out a chance for extra studying, rather than help high school students. He said many students at Highlands Elementary School, where his other son is enrolled, do not show up before Labor Day. Starting sooner, he argued, would negatively affect them as well.

But board member Maria Bidelman said a committee proposed the calendar only after extensive research.

"A great amount of work has been done behind the scenes to make sure this is academically beneficial to our students," Bidelman said.

The calendar approved Monday still includes an end to the first semester before Christmas. It also requires students to attend class the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

The school year will end May 27 instead of May 21, as was proposed last month. The total number of instructional days will remain the same as this year, at 178 days.

Holding school on Veterans Day was an idea endorsed by various veterans groups for the opportunity to engage more students in holiday ceremonies and activities. Several community members have opposed the change, however, amid concerns that schools would not plan adequate programming.

In response to comments suggesting the district hold school on Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Columbus Day as well, U-46 Chief of Staff Tony Sanders said the district could decide to do that but not before renegotiating its labor contracts, which will not be possible in the near future.

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