District transportation affecting calendar

One of the lasting legacies of the late Schuster administration has since developed into the new Sloan administration’s most controversial proposal. Last Nov., then Superintendent Renee Schuster commissioned an exploratory task force to delve into possible money-saving options for the 2011-2012 school year. The task force, headed by Dr. Steve Griggs, looked into the possibility of amending the calendar system- a change that would save nearly $1 million in transportation costs.

“I honestly think that we came up with a good compromise,” Sloan said. “But I don’t like how it will disrupt the culture.”

For over 40 years, the elementary schools have operated under a “cycle” calendar which includes a six-week summer break, nine-week school quarters, with three-week cycle breaks between them.

But the secondary schools work around the Standard calendar. A Nine-week-long summer vacation with a week-long spring and fall break, and 11 days for Christmas break. The newly proposed calendar would marry the two schedules, making secondary school breaks longer and elementary school breaks shorter.

“We looked at options that would save us money and which options would have an impact on academic achievement,” Griggs said.

The new calendar was created in an anticipation that state aid, as well as district funding, was

going to become scarce for the 2011-2012 school year. While looking for money-saving options, the district searched for parts of the $176 million budget that could be tightened. In an attempt to avoid touching salaries and benefits- which make up 80 percent of the money the district spends- they turned to the second largest chunk of spending: transportation. Each year the district pays $10 million for transportation and receives $2.9 million in state aid for their transportation expenditures.

“There is a chance to lose several million dollars in state aid,” Sloan said. “We are facing a revenue shortfall. It is a question of having this or having that.”

The calendar committee has submitted their plan to the Board of Education, which could vote on the proposition as early as October. Board president Mike Sommer, who also served on the Schuster task force, says that the new proposal reflects the overall goals of the district, while still saving money.

“The main focus is on academics,” Sommer said. “When we looked at the calendar, we asked: was there any research that said that a year round schedule is better?”

In fact, there was not. The committee sifted through stacks of articles and research papers. Some said that year round schedules were better, others said that traditional was better, and some said that neither worked. After their research, they decided to mash the two schedules into one.

“Does it meet all of the needs of the individual? No,” Sommer said. “But it makes the neces

sary change and saves us money that we can put into our classrooms.”

Besides budgetary relief, the board will also consider the effects on sports, clubs and parents. Sports and clubs at the high school level already deal with a week-long fall break that already disrupts practice schedules. But with three more days on the break, it could make practice on the teams even more difficult. The Varsity girls Volleyball team says that it would have trouble performing at their best during games over the extended break, due to the fact that no one will be at school to promote the upcoming matches.

“We won’t have as many fans at the games over break,” junior Nicole Yuede said. “It is no fun to play games at school when we have no one to impress.”

Regardless of what the board decides to do, the pressure is still on the District to find more ways to save money and find them fast. The Board of Education has set the goal to have the budget and calendar for the 2011-2012 school year in place by October 21. With the diminishing aid from the State, Sloan and the rest of the administration is searching for alternatives to save money.

“Changing the calendar won’t be the only solution. We need other things,” Sloan said. “How can we re-evaluate? How can we do things more efficiently? The calendar would help, but it isn’t the only way.”

Kevin Beerman