By Michelle Chance
The Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board approved a much discussed modified calendar Wednesday. However teachers, school staff and students won’t see the changes until fall 2018.
Board members agreed the traditional calendar, along with a few amendments, will continue through the 2017-2018 school year to allow parents and teachers time to prepare for the changes.
Two amendments to the traditional calendar were adopted from the modified calendar: Two “teacher days” (in which students will be exempt from attending school), and an additional day for Thanksgiving break.
Prior to approval, the proposed changes to the school calendar caused some teachers, parents and students to raise alarm.
Under the modified calendar, students will begin school in July. It will also extend fall, winter and spring breaks by an additional week.
Board Member Torri Anderson said she was “bombarded” with emails from parents in the district who raised concern that the shortened summer break could impact teen students who hold summer jobs.
Other board members said parents raised issue with having to find childcare during the extended holiday breaks.
AnnaMarie Knorr, the board’s vice president, said parents and school employees she talked to about the modified calendar “felt the (changes) were happening too fast.”
The director of Child Nutrition at the district, Suzette Moe, spoke during the meeting and said she favored the traditional calendar because her staff would receive either no check or two half-checks during the extended two-week breaks under the proposed changes.
“That would affect them a great deal since I do have single moms that work for me,” Moe said.
Feedback from surveys recently sent to parents and school staff was also discussed. The findings were the cause of much debate among board members because the results of the surveys were close.
The community survey split those in favor of the modified calendar and supporters of the traditional calendar by less than 1 percentage point.
The same survey sent to school staff favored the modified calendar slightly more than the traditional option.
District Superintendent Steve Chestnut said the board received a tremendous response from the surveys, the results of which indicated a desire for a modified calendar.
“I think the data supports that,” he said.
In an attempt to satisfy both sides, the governing board approved the traditional calendar for one more year, and postponed the modified calendar until the 2018-2019 and 2019-2020 school years.