Winchester schools will have earlier starts in 2013-14, 2014-15

Posted: February 12, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — The city School Board has approved school calendars with earlier starts for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years.

During a meeting on Monday, the panel voted 8-1 to phase in a school calendar that will have earlier beginning and ending dates than the current year, in which school started a week before Labor Day and will end in the second week of June.

In the fall, classes will begin Aug. 19 and the academic year will end June 6.

For 2014-15, school will begin Aug. 11 and end May 27.

Handley High School’s graduation will be set for the last Saturday in May of 2014 and 2105.

Member Sharion Poston voted against the measure because she did not like the 2014-15 calendar proposal.

One citizen spoke about the calendar during the meeting — Martha Hardy, a parent of four children and member of the Handley Parent-Teacher Organization.

She, along with Handley Principal Jesse Dingle, voiced preference for starting two weeks earlier than usual (the 2014-15 calendar choice) because the second grading period will end before the Christmas break instead of in the second or third week of January, after students return to school.

“The current calendar no longer seems to fit,” she said.

Hardy said she received extensive support for the early school year from PTO members, and Dingle said many teachers and staff supported the proposed calendar.

Daniel Morgan Middle School Principal Sarah Kish also backed the earlier start date because she said January through March are already busy testing months, so it would be better to test students before Christmas break.

Board members Poston, Cynthia Ford, Erica Truban and Mary Margaret Wise expressed their concerns and those of their constituents about beginning the calendar this year — noting that summer camps are already set and people will have to change their child care and vacation plans.

“What I don’t understand is the urgency to have to do it this year,” Poston said.

Ford said several parents indicated that they thought voicing their opinions at Monday’s meeting would be futile because they believed the School Board had made up its mind about the calendar.

Some parents, Ford said, told her that they thought the board was sneaking something past them with the latest calendar draft, which was developed and discussed as late as last month after an earlier draft seemed to have already gained traction.

Truban said she believed the change could wait a year. “I think a lot of the negatives I heard has been the six-month notice. That isn’t really a lot.”

Board member Vince DiBenedetto said the decision and discussion of the calendar were not conducted out of urgency, but proceeded in normal fashion and timing.

Wise said she believed the board should involve the community, families and school system stakeholders more in the process and proposed the phased-in approach.

“[T]hat engagement is something that should be respected,” she said.

Present at the meeting were Chairman John Bishop, Vice-Chairman Melvin Thomas, and board members Richard Bell, Allyson Pate, Vincent DiBenedetto, Cynthia Ford, Sharion Poston, Erica Truban and Mary Margaret Wise.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com