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Parents, teachers want traditional school calendar

by Merrie Leininger

Although the school board will not make a decision until next month, they heard information gathered by the Douglas County Professional Education Association supporting the change of the three multitrack, year-round elementary schools to traditional calendars.

Mike Jessup, vice president of the association, and C.C. Meneley Elementary School teacher, told the board they had been surveying parents and teachers for years about their feelings on the calendar.

“In every case, teachers have expressed that multitrack, year-round is having an increasingly negative impact on every aspect of the elementary educational process,” Jessup said.

C.C. Meneley, Scarselli and Gardnerville elementary schools are year-round, multitrack schools. Many teachers believe next year, Gardnerville should return to a traditional calendar.

The association surveyed teachers about the impact year-round, multitrack had on social development, professional development, parent and family life, staff morale and education. In all areas, teachers increasingly believed the calendar negatively affected themselves and the students.

Parents and teachers also addressed the board to reinforce Jessup’s statements.

Connie Wennhold, a member of the C.C. Meneley parent organization, said she has experienced multitrack as a parent, classroom volunteer and a substitute teacher.

“Two weeks ago, I substituted for a red track class going off track and I left shaking my head. What a waste,” she said.

Wennhold said the class was sent outside to play as teachers moved classroom materials out of the room and cleaned the room.

She said the students stay with the same class for all of elementary school and behave as siblings, maintaining a social retardation in the students who are deemed “unpopular” in the 1st grade.

Wennhold also said maintaining the buildings while students are in school is a “nightmare.” She related incidents when sandblasting was going on outside her son’s classroom during testing and when students could not get water or use the bathrooms because construction workers broke a water pipe.

Diane Mitchell, a teacher at C.C. Meneley Elementary School, spoke up at public comment.

“There are great things about Douglas County, but multitrack, year-round is poison to teachers,” Mitchell said about the lack of professional mentoring possibilities. “There are wonderful teachers in this district we are losing because of this system. Instead of teaching, we are moving children from room to room. We want to do the best for them and we’re not allowed to.”

Judy Keele, who has volunteered and worked in the school district, and who said she and husband George will have children in the district for a total of 19 years, said she thinks the district does a great job in almost every way, except in multitrack schools.

“When the district started year-round, I felt the institution of education was one more thing pulling my family apart,” she said. “We were told using the excuse of having families together was not a good enough excuse to have students on the same track. My family is tired. My kids have no lazy summer days.”

Another C.C. Meneley teacher, Claudia Bertolone-Smith, also said the multitrack calendar hurts teachers and students.

“I think that Douglas County School District is wonderful and I’m a product of it. That is why it makes me sad, because I think we could do better,” she said.

Superintendent Pendery Clark said the district does not feel students’ education is lacking because of multitrack.

“I want to ensure parents the district is providing a quality education to every child,” Clark said.

Board President Randy Wallstrum said the board also has to consider the financial stability of the district and will hear recommendations on possible calendar changes from district administrators at next month’s meeting.