Survey on Nontraditional School Calendar Mulled by D86 Board
An earlier start to the school year has dominated the calendar discussion, but two board members said Monday that other options to relieve students' finals stress should be considered.
The District 86 school board will act this month on a resolution to hire an outside firm that would carry out a survey gauging the community’s interest in a nontraditional school calendar.
At the District 86 Board of Education’s Committee of the Whole meeting Monday night at Hinsdale South, Superintendent Dr. Nick Wahl said three firms responded to the district's request for proposal (RFP). Wahl said the proposal he thinks is best, based on both price and firm qualifications, gave the district a price range of $6,000 to $10,000. That proposal came from Naperville-based Beaird Group.
The district would want the survey to be extended to stakeholders in the seven feeder districts, as well. Those communities would likely have to adapt to any major changes by District 86.
“They said they could make that happen,” Wahl said of Beaird Group, who recently did similar work for Naperville District 203.
Action on the survey item is planned for the board’s June 18 meeting.
Monday’s discussion stems from an idea proposed by District 86 student representatives for years whereby the school year would begin earlier in August so that first-semester finals could be completed before winter break. Wahl has said the district is going to do its part to see if a change is indeed needed and wanted by the greater community. That’s where the survey comes in.
“This would give us something quantifiable to say this is what we want to do, or no it’s not,” Wahl said.
The superintendent said that the district has found during community engagement sessions that August vacation time is a precious commodity to many District 86 families.
Any nontraditional calendar does not appear to be a possibility in the next two school years. The board has already approved a traditional 2012-13 calendar, beginning in late August and ending in early June, and will vote on another traditional calendar for 2013-14 at its June 18 regular action meeting.
“No one’s in a hurry, and what we’re doing isn’t broken,” Wahl said.
Board members Kay Gallo and DeeDee Gorgol said they would support a survey that not only asks if the community supports an earlier start date, but also evaluates other possible options to resolve the finals issue.
Gallo said another scenario to consider is a calendar that has a number of days between winter break and finals, which would depend on a later start to the year.
“If we can do a wide variety of questions, I think the information will be very valuable,” Gallo said.
Gorgol said that if the survey only considered the earlier-start scenario, the $6,000 to $10,000 would be “a lot of money to spend just to get that answer.”
Wahl agreed that a survey should be wide-ranging.
“It’s not going to be ‘Click A or B,’” he said. “It’s more complicated than that. That’s why there’s so much passion about this, understandably.”
If the board does vote to move forward with the survey, Wahl said, the district would likely aim to administer it in the fall.