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Panel hears complaints from residents about starting new year before Labor Day
By M.K. Luther -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- The Warren County School Board delayed action on the 2011-12 calendar last week after hearing community concerns about a pre-Labor Day start.
The board debated shifting the 2011-12 calendar, and having the school year begin one week before Labor Day or post-Labor Day. The board acted after hearing complaints that an Aug. 22 start was too early and could affect family vacation plans, and possibly cause some pupils to miss the first week of school.
The 2011-12 calendar was entered on first reading at the Feb. 17 meeting, with Aug. 22 as the first day of school and five weather makeup days included, Superintendent Pamela McInnis said at the board's March 10 meeting. School systems are allowed to create their own calendar as long as pupils attend for 180 days.
"It is up to individual location to set the calendar," McInnis said.
The school calendar was sent to faculty and was also posted on the school system's website, McInnis said, but was not sent home to parents.
The 2010-11 school year started after Labor Day to ensure the completion of the new Warren County Middle School, McInnis said. Labor Day is on Sept. 5 this year.
Jan Bradd spoke at the public comment period during the March 10 meeting. Bradd told the board she and her family members had been highly active in the community and school system, and her grandchildren attend A.S Rhodes Elementary School.
"We have a large family and because of our busy schedule we try and plan our vacation and take one week a year," Bradd said. "We had no idea that school would be starting that week."
Vacationing during the final weeks of the summer can save families money, Bradd said, as many rental homes and hotels offer off-season discount rates. Bradd also said her family would not want to take the children out of school to go on vacation and disrupt their first week of class.
"It is really good bonding week for the teacher and student," Bradd said.
Board member Kimberly Athey said the professional days and early release days could be tweaked to help accommodate a later start.
"There have been several years we have had after-Labor Day starts, and I feel we have proven we can do it and student achievement has not been affected by it," Athey said.
"Whatever we decide to do, I would like us to at least come up with a guideline," said board member Cathy Bower." I would like the community to know what to expect."