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posted: 12/4/2013 5:30 AM

Dist. 220 debates changes to school year calendar

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As Barrington Unit District 220 prepares for a decision on moving first-semester finals to before winter break, the sanctity of the Columbus Day holiday has replaced the first day of school as the most discussed issue.

Chief Communications Officer Jeff Arnett reported that the change of Columbus Day from a day off to an attendance day was the biggest point of conversation by both the calendar committee and labor management committee in the past two weeks.

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"The overarching concern is trying to preserve a three-day weekend everyone enjoys in the fall," Arnett said.

But both committees ultimately concurred with the recommendation of the Input 220 Advisory Council to make it an attendance day, recognizing it as a critical variable in balancing the lengths of the two semesters on either side of winter break, Arnett said.

District 220 has already long maintained Veterans Day and Pulaski Day as attendance days and will still do so.

The 35-member advisory council spent much of 2013 researching the question of changing the district's school year calendar in a way that would be beneficial to students without creating unintended side effects.

Their majority recommendation ultimately was to end Barrington High School's first semester before winter break while adjusting days off within the school year to ensure that its starting and ending dates almost exactly match today's.

Opposition both within the council and among some members of the general public long focused on concern that summer vacation and the family time it allows could be cut short by such a change.

Even when the council identified maintaining the current start and end times of the school year as priorities, critics feared that future school boards could let these creep further into the summer.

On Tuesday, current board members drafted a policy that any future changes to the calendar would require a public hearing with the final vote to occur no earlier than 14 days afterward.

Both this policy and a draft of the 2014-15 school year calendar with the recommended changes are scheduled for a final vote at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 17 at Barrington High School, 616 W. Main St. in Barrington.

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