School Board Pushes Back Pre-Labor Day Start to 2014
Classes will start on Sept. 3 in 2013, but will begin prior to Labor Day—on Aug. 25—in 2014.
Classes at Edina Public Schools will not begin until after Labor Day, at least for the coming school year.
The Board of Education unanimously approved revised academic calendars for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, tweaking those reviewed earlier this month. While classes will be pushed back to Sept. 3 in 2013, the school year will still start prior to Labor Day—on Aug. 25—in 2014.
"At the end of the day, the administration is making this change," Superintendent Ric Dressen said. "There's no perfect calendar and there's no one reason for why this recommendation is being made tonight. It was input, listening and gathering data that helped bring this recommendation to the board."
Dressen said the district spoke with representatives from all walks of life—students, legislators, the tourism industry and legal counsel, to name a few—before ultimately landing on the final decision.
"In the end, I think the best decision for Edina Public Schools is to move the start time for the 2013-2014 school year to Sept. 3," he said. "I think it's the right thing for students and it's allowed by law as we do have construction projects."
Minnesota law technically prohibits starting school before Labor Day, though a provision in state statues makes it possible for districts with more than $400,000 worth of construction to start earlier. Because Edina's 10-year alternative facilities plan includes approximately $10 million in planned building infrastructure upgrades, the district easily meets that threshold.
A substantial number of concerned parents once again spoke before the School Board about the push to start the school year prior to Labor Day, echoing sentiments raised the first time the calendars were up for approval.
Laurel Fishbach presented Board members with a petition reportedly signed by 385 district residents, urging the district to provide some hard data as to why the earlier start to classes would be beneficial to students.
"We need to know if we're going to give up a week of summer that it's really going to make a difference for getting into college and being a better learner," Fishbach said. "If the teachers need those days, every one of us are willing to give them up at Christmas, Thanksgiving and around President's Day. Please let everyone enjoy the month of August."
Board Member Sarah Patzloff said it "has not been an easy issue for the board."
"I feel strongly this isn't a state decision, it's a local school district decision," Patzloff said.
Patzloff went on to say she's glad the district will be waiting another year before switching to the pre-Labor Day start, as she can understand where parents are coming from on the issue.
"That's something that I think the Board has decided is a good thing," she said. "We'll move forward with this in 2014, but work with the Legislature to try to figure out how to have this discussion at the local level."
Lost in the uproar over the pre-Labor Day start was the inclusion of four early release and late start dates in the calendars. Those dates are designed to provide teachers with additional time to analyze student achievement data, collaborate with colleagues and align their instruction for maximum student achievement, according to the proposal.
Randy Smasal, Edina's director of teaching & learning, said building those times into the school year ensures teachers would have time to work together on best practices.
"It's critical teachers have opportunities to get together and meet," Smasal said. "The challenge is that they don't have frequent common time to collaborate on student data. This offers more opportunities for teachers to collaborate for the betterment of students."