A modified school calendar that would essentially put students in the classroom year-round is up for consideration by the Payson Unified School District board of education at its meeting 5:30 p.m., Jan. 8. at the district office.
The proposed calendar would shorten summer recess by about a month, and add a two-week fall recess.
The new calendar, developed and recommended by the Superintendent's Advisory Council, also includes two-week winter and spring breaks. The total number of days school would be in session 178 remains the same as the current calendar.
Some parents have expressed concern about the proposed calendar change, citing conflicts with custody arrangements, child care issues, and the fact that they have not been informed of or had an opportunity to comment on the proposed changes. One parent said, "I don't care so much about modifying the school year, but it does irritate me that it seems to be happening somewhat clandestinely."
With many administrators, including Superintendent Herb Weissenfels, taking time off over the holidays, PUSD executive secretary Susan Everhart has been fielding questions about the proposed calendar change. She assured parents that the process is in a preliminary phase, and that they are welcome to address the board on the subject at its Jan. 8 meeting.
"We always encourage parents to attend board meetings," Everhart said.
The Superintendent's Advisory Council, an 18-person body which comprises two teachers from each school and representatives of the various support departments, meets on an "as needed" basis. The council has traditionally been responsible for developing the school calendar each year.
The council's recommendation is then sent to the board for final approval. "But because this calendar represents a fairly substantial change, I wouldn't be surprised if the board didn't take any action right away," Everhart said.
If adopted, the proposed school calendar calls for school to begin Aug. 6, 2001, with a two-week fall recess from Oct. 8-19, a two-week winter recess from Dec. 24-Jan 4, and a two-week spring recess from March 18-30. The last day of school would be May 27, 2002.
"Actually," Everhart said, "school would only begin about 10 days earlier than normal. We started on Aug. 16 this year."
One rationale for adopting the new calendar is to decrease student burnout, according to Everhart. "But there are other good things about this approach, including the fact that families would have the option of taking vacations at times other than summer," she said.
"This is especially helpful in a place like Payson, where so many people are working service jobs in the summertime. There are just a lot of advantages, including more time during the school year for remediation," she said.
Other school districts have adopted similar calendars with good results, according to Everhart, including the Concho Elementary District in Apache County, the Queen Creek Elementary District, the Holbrook Unified School District, and Avondale Schools.
Everhart noted that Julia Randall Elementary School has looked into implementing such a calendar in the past, but never actually did so.
She also denied that the calendar is designed to provide a two-week break during hunting season, as some parents allege. "I've never heard a word said about hunting season," she said. "Maybe where that came from is that a long time ago, we used to take the first day of hunting season off."