School Board Revisits, Changes Start Dates

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School next year will start a week later than anticipated after a flurry of parent complaints inspired the Payson Unified School District board to revisit the calendar it approved last month.

School will now start on July 29 instead of July 22. To compensate, school will end one week later on May 28 instead of May 21.

Two-week fall and spring breaks remain, the scheduling of which has caused disagreement through the years.

“We’ve been hashing out this calendar for about eight of the 10 years that I have served on this board,” said member Viki Holmes.

The board instituted two-week breaks for the 2002-03 school year, but abandoned the idea in 2006 in favor of one-week breaks. Staff say they like the breaks because it allows time for rejuvenation. Others say the breaks are disruptive, and that they force school to start too early.

Originally, the district provided tutoring during the two-week breaks, but the idea proved unsuccessful. Board member Richard Meyer said students had to pay $75 so teachers could receive pay.

“The result was zero students signed up because they weren’t going to pay,” Meyer said. Other board members, however, said they didn’t remember that problem.

Superintendent Casey O’Brien, who did not work for Payson during the previous schedule scramble, said better planning could make the program successful.

“Just because it didn’t work in the past doesn’t mean it can’t work in the future,” he said.

This year, a one-week fall break will precede a two-week spring break because of construction.

“There’s no calendar that’s going to please all employees. There’s no calendar that’s going to please all parents,” O’Brien said.

Meyer said he spoke with parents who felt misled by the “cryptic” survey.

“Quite frankly, they felt manipulated,” he said.

The survey asked parents if they favored two-week breaks, one-week breaks, or had no preference. Meyer said parents didn’t know the consequences of their responses.

Other parents complained that they weren’t asked. O’Brien said the survey was statistically accurate and “extremely reliable.”

No members of the public addressed the board at the meeting.

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