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Some parents object to Aug. 13 start date

by Alan McArthur
Landmark reporter

The Park Hill School Board held a public hearing on Thursday to discuss the proposed academic calendar for the 2008-2009 school year.

The district was required to hold the hearing because of a recently approved Missouri Statute 171.031. The statute provides that a district may not set its starting date earlier than 10 days before Labor Day unless a public hearing is held to receive community input.

“A district may set an opening date that is more than 10 calendar days prior to the first Monday in September only if the local school board first gives public notice of a public meeting to discuss the proposal of opening school on a date more than ten days prior to the first Monday in September, and the local school board holds said meeting and, at the same public meeting, a majority of the board votes to allow an earlier opening date.”

Park Hill's proposed calendar has the first day set for Aug. 13, which is 19 days before Labor Day.

Before the public hearing, the board heard from the Calendar Committee about their recommendations for when classes should be held in the school district.

The committee recommended the proposed calendar after hearing requests from several groups for the way in which the calendar should be set up. Some of the requests the committee considered were trying to start school as late as possible, finishing the first semester before winter break, having long winter and spring breaks, closing school on national holidays, and starting the year on a Wednesday.

Members of the committee, including Assistant Superintendent Mark Frost and Traci Dorrell, told the board they tried to consider all of these suggestions in organizing the calendar.

The proposed calendar starts on Aug. 13, a Wednesday, and the first semester ends on Dec. 19 before a two week Winter break.

Some parents spoke to the board during the public hearing and expressed their thoughts about the proposed calendar.

“We moved here 11 years ago and school started on Aug. 28,” said Janelle Lozano, parent. “It has continuously gotten earlier every year. Missouri law discourages starting before Labor Day, so why does Park Hill?”

“Many people choose to live here because of this district and it is easy to see the district has a focus on education,” said Sherry Scott, parent. “Park Hill continues to invest in our children and the district recognizes we need more than just the minimum number of school days to achieve. We don't need to fill the pockets of the tourism industry at the expense of our children's education.”

“My request is please do not confuse quality with quantity, most half days are simply 'play days',” said Andrew Moyes, parent. “Please consider going to the state required number of days.”

“They are only kids once,” said Lynn Lanning, parent. “Let them have a summer vacation. Childhood is too short.”

The school board decided to send the calendar back to the calendar committee for review of the suggestions made during the meeting. The board will have another public hearing about the calendar revisions at their next meeting on Thursday, Jan. 24.

The board also approved an Educational Service Agency Contract with the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City. The agreement allows the Cooperating School Districts organization to receive 501(c)3 status for non-profit organizations.

Other districts in the Greater Kansas City area will also approve similar resolutions allowing the organization to become an educational service agency.


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