No late start for Denver Public Schools next year.
by Christina Danek
In a 5-2 vote taken the evening of January 25th, the Denver Public Schools Board of Education approved the traditional calendar running from August to May, for the 2008-2009 school year.
With the Democratic National Convention coming to Denver in late August, the Board had been debating its options for the upcoming school year.
The convention, which will be held from August 25-28 at the Pepsi Center, should bring in nearly 35,000 guests, including some 5,000 delegates and 15,000 members of the media, according to the Democratic National Convention Committee.
Twelve DPS elementary, middle and high schools are in the locality of where the convention will be, and concerns about the safety of school children arose. With thousands of people flocking to the convention, transportation will be difficult; should an emergency arise, it may be hard to reach the schools in danger within a reasonable amount of time. "We want to hope for the best but we have to plan for the worst," said Ed Ray, Chief of DPS security.
DPS officials originally proposed two calendars for the ’08-’09 year. Proposal 1 maintained the traditional schedule, with schools in session from August 18th though May 28th. Classes were planned to carry on as usual during the Democratic National Convention, and special security plans would be enacted by school directors to ensure safety. First semester would end before Winter Break, and students would enjoy a fall break in October, albeit three days. As usual, first semester would be several weeks shorter than second semester, with 80 student days and 86 teacher days, in comparison to a second semester of 91.5 student days and 96 teacher days.
As laid out in Proposal 2, the 2008-2009 DPS school year would be pushed back two weeks, and run from September 2nd to June 9th. First semester would end in January, three weeks after the end of Winter Break. Although the total number of school days that teachers and students would have to report is the same in both proposals, plan 2 would actually even out the number of days in each semester. First semester would have 87 student days and 92 teacher days, while second semester would require 84.5 student days, and 90 teacher days.
Simply put, Proposal 1 offered a normal school calendar, and extra security during the week of the convention, while Proposal 2 offered a later, September-to-June school year with no fall break, and nearly equal-length semesters.
For a number of weeks, students, parents, teachers and community members were allowed to voice their opinion in an online survey. The final results showed that a majority of parents favored the late-start calendar, while most students preferred the traditional schedule. The greater part of DPS employees that were surveyed also favored the earlier start calendar.
Board of Education Member Bruce Hoyt outlined the reasons for choosing the first proposal, and admitted, “There were a lot of pros and cons on both sides.” One factor was the results from the online survey, which showed majority support for the normal calendar. Also taken into consideration were CSAP testing and high school athletics. The later calendar allowed for two weeks less preparation time before CSAP testing, as well as a late start behind other districts’ sports programs. A third issue that affected the decision was the finals testing schedule. By starting early, students are able to take finals before Winter Break, instead of in January when they return. Logically, students typically perform better on finals when the material is fresh in their minds, rather than after they have had a two-week vacation. Finally, altering the school calendar by two weeks would inevitably complicate peoples’ travel and transportation arrangements, work plans, etc.
Addressing concerns about safety during the Convention, Hoyt explained, “The feeling was that we have to leave it up to the city to make sure that proper security is provided.” To further aid them in making the decision, the Board looked to St. Paul, Minnesota, where the Republican National Convention will be held later this year, to see how they handled the situation. The public schools in that city are going forward with a regular school calendar as well, which further helped persuade the DPS Board members. All sides of the issue have been analyzed and weighed, and the final consensus is that it will be best for those affected to have a regular calendar for the next school year.