Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Board Rejects Earlier Calendar | Sarasota District Won't Push First Day of Fall Semester Back a Week

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Board Rejects Earlier Calendar | Sarasota District Won't Push First Day of Fall Semester Back a Week

Article excerpt

EDUCATION

SARASOTA -- School will not begin a week earlier during 2016-17 and 2017-18 after the Sarasota County School Board rejected a proposal to change the schedule as allowed under a new state law.

The 4-1 vote against the calendar change Tuesday night came after months of intense debate among parents and teachers over the proposal to start on Aug. 15 in 2016 and Aug. 14 in 2017.

School district officials said the earlier start would have allowed students to finish their first semester and second academic quarter before the winter break, giving them time off without having to study for finals or finish end-of-quarter projects. But many parents argued that the change would send students onto stuffy buses during the hottest time of the year, interfere with family vacations and cut the summer short.

Board member Bridget Ziegler said although she initially supported the earlier start, the volume of public comments opposing it changed her mind.

"The fact you have spoken so well -- we want the community to know we are here to listen to them," Ziegler said. "If you have issues, we are here to listen. If you come out and speak, we will support you."

Opponents of changing the

calendar wore one of two white stickers to the board meeting -- one that said "Save our Summers" in black font and one that read "OPPOSED" in red.

The decision to nix the new calendars drew applause and cheers from the audience, made up mostly of a vocal group of parents adamantly opposed to the shift.

Twenty-seven of 29 speakers during the public comment period spoke against the changes.

A Herald-Tribune analysis of 755 emails sent to the school district between Oct. 21 and Dec. 11 showed 382 emails opposed to starting school earlier, 247 favored the change, and 126 were neutral toward the start date change but complained about certain holidays and professional days.

Some parents saw the advanced start as another change to accommodate burdensome standardized testing and bemoaned the over use of testing and teaching to the test in Florida. …

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