Anchorage School District surveys public for future school calendars

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Anchorage School District is holding a survey to ask for the public’s input in developing school calendars for the next five years.

“In decision-making and planning, the Anchorage School District actively engages and involves as many stakeholders in the processes as possible,” Catherine Esary, the district’s communications director, said in an email Friday. “That means that students, parents/families, employees, and community members’ opinions, suggestions, and comments matter and are valuable.”

The school district is giving Anchorage residents until midnight Aug. 24 to voice their opinions before the results are compiled. The school board will then analyze the data and make its decision sometime in the fall.

“The Anchorage School Board approves calendars, usually for three or as much as five years in advance, giving families and employees the ability to plan vacations, time outside, and meeting other personal or family scheduling need,” said Esary.

The survey focuses on two draft calendar options: The first would be similar to the current school calendar, while the second would have a full week off for Thanksgiving, with the Fall semester starting three days earlier than the current calendar.

“It would give us families the chance to fly somewhere out of Alaska,” said Linda Fleck, a grandparent of an Anchorage student. “We’d like to go visit family out of state.”

Not everyone thinks that change would be entirely positive. “The pros are that families would have more time together, the con for me is that they lose out on being educated,” said Phillip Matafele, a parent of two children at Russian Jack Elementary. “I’m stuck between a rock and (a) hard place on that one.

There are also some more radical proposals including dividing the school calendar into trimesters rather than semesters or shifting the district to a four-day school week with longer days.

“We have noticed that the longer kids are at the school, in the building, their behavior starts to deteriorate,” said Erika Armstrong, school-age childcare worker at the YMCA. “We have more behavioral issues, less listening. The kids don’t want to have that many rules they want to follow.”

Another radical proposal is shifting to a year-round school calendar with longer breaks throughout the year, a model that was found to be used in around 4 percent of public schools across the country in 2014.

The National Education Association, a union for public school teachers, wrote an article looking at the pros and cons of year-round schooling saying it could limit students forgetting what they’ve learned over a long summer break, while some critics say extracurricular programs suffer from problems with scheduling.

The school district survey to look at school calendars comes less than a week after the board decided to move forward on a proposal to change start times for schools across the district.



 
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