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Vote set on school calendar

by Merrie Leininger

The Douglas County School board will vote on next school year’s calendar at its 3:30 p.m. meeting Tuesday at Carson Valley Middle School.

However, the district will probably not appease parents who want their elementary students on the same schedule as secondary students until multi-track schools are eliminated.

A calendar recommended by Assistant Superintendent of Personnel John Soderman provides “more family time for families with siblings in single track and traditional schools and to respond to input from parents and staff.”

The proposal allows for a two-week Christmas vacation instead of one and a one-week Easter vacation.

Soderman said the district could not change the calendars for multi-track students because changing even one or two days of one track affects the other three tracks.

“There are four tracks and they are packed in there so tight, there is no room for change,” he said.

However, the changes in the single track schools hopefully preview what the Valley-wide calendar will look like when the multi-track schools are converted to single-track.

“What we want to do is develop an educationally sound calendar that would reflect when the people want to be off in our community. We won’t be multi-track in two years, and at that point, the issue would essentially go away because the whole district would be on the same calendar,” Soderman said.

n Parents upset. Sharla Hales will not be at the school board meeting Tuesday to support changes in the multi-track calendar because her family is going on vacation – a family adventure that always requires at least one of her four children to be taken out of school.

“How important is it to say, ‘Gee, guys, let’s go to the beach,’ and you go. It is important to spend those long hours of leisure together, and the kids like it,” Hales said.

However, when the children have to be pulled out of school, it can be very disruptive.

“We are going out of town and are pulling them out of school. If there was a better time to go, we’d do it. My son is in the 9th grade and it’s hard on him, almost to the point he doesn’t want to go,” she said. “Between now and the end of June, we don’t have anything more than long weekends, so if we want to have any time as a family, who do you pull out of school?”

She said it is also difficult to find day care when the younger children are off-track.

“Especially for a part-time, working mom, no day care wants a kid eight hours a week and for only couple of weeks in November and March when they are off-track,” she said.

She said making the change shouldn’t be that hard, and making the teachers and parents happy should be a priority of the district.

“I haven’t heard one plausible reason to keep the year-round calendar when it is so different from the secondary calendar,” Hales said. “Think about high school teachers who have grade school children. It would be a cheap and relatively easy way to make their lives better.”

Mike Jessup of the Douglas County Professional Education Association said a committee from the association met with Soderman and presented its ideas.

“We’re looking at a modified single track calendar that would match better with the middle school and high school calendars. The only difference is the summer would only have a maximum of six weeks, but that’s still longer than the four weeks they have now. I think for a lot of reasons there would be improvement,” Jessup said.

Connie Wennhold has a child in the 3rd grade and one in the 6th grade. She has been involved with other parents in presenting calendar proposals to Soderman and said she would love all the schools to be on a traditional calendar.

“I think that would be the simplest, the least expensive and would match up with families, but I also realize it is the philosophy of the district that year-round is the way to go,”she said.

She has a problem with the district choosing to let multi-track stay the same for the last two years of its existence.

“I don’t have two years. I need it today. Our children are here now, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this hurts families and the education of our teachers. Don’t we need teachers that are trained in new things?” Wennhold said.

She said in her group’s proposal, the blue track would have six weeks in the summer that would allow teachers to take courses at the University of Nevada, Reno, and would move the three weeks off from November to December at Christmas, then two weeks at Easter.

She said she has talked to school board members who are supportive of changes in the multi-track calendar.

“A lot of them sound very, very supportive. I just hope they say it can change. They have the power to do that. They’ve had a lot of calls. Why wouldn’t they want to accommodate the families?” Wennhold said.

n Other agenda items. The board will also hear agenda items on TerraNova results, the district’s financial status and a workshop on the implementation of the competency-based system at the high schools.