Although some members were not too happy about dismissing students for a half-day each month to accommodate a mid-week break for professional development sessions for its teachers, the Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board nevertheless voted Monday to approve a calendar for the 2012-2013 school year after making a minor shift in two days that involved early dismissal.
The calendar, developed by a committee made up of parents, teachers, and administrators, in collaboration with a similar group from Evanston Township High School, largely mirrors the high school calendar in terms of breaks for major holidays, but it failed to satisfy objections from “working families” about holidays on days when most businesses are still open.
Consequently, students will have the day off on Presidents’ Day, Feb. 18, and Pulaski Day, March 4, when most of their parents are still at work. Presidents’ Day is a holiday for the high school, but it has dropped Pulaski Day as a holiday for 2013.
Member Eileen Budde, a veteran teacher herself, tried in vain to convince her colleagues to shift the half-day professional development days from Wednesday to Friday, but was told that teachers largely prefer the midweek schedule in order that they can immediately apply the new skills they learn at workshops, rather than having to wait out a weekend.
Also, there was concern expressed that half-day Fridays might lead to full three-day weekends for some families who might elect to take mini-vacations by skipping those Fridays altogether.
The board did make one small adjustment by shifting the half-day Wednesday from the first week of the month to the second week in January and April to avoid having a short day in the weeks that follow the winter and spring breaks.
The school year will begin on Tuesday, Sept. 3, the day after Labor Day. The year will end with a full day of school on June 12.
Thanksgiving will be a three-day break, Nov. 21-23. The winter break will extend from Dec. 24 through Jan. 4, and the spring break will be the week of March 25-29.
The teacher workshops, dubbed “school improvement days,” are scheduled for Oct. 3, Nov. 7, Dec. 5, Jan. 16, Feb. 6, April 10, and May 1. While these are full days for teachers, they are half days for students, who will be dismissed at 12:05 p.m. in the elementary schools, 11:30 a.m. at the middle schools, and 11 a.m. at the magnet schools.
Parent-teacher conferences will be held during the weeks of Oct. 15 and Feb. 10. The last day of each of those two weeks will be non-attendance days for students.
Other school holidays are Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, Jan. 21; Presidents’ Day, Feb. 18; Pulaski Day, March 4; and Memorial Day, May 27.
Board member Kim Weaver urged the committee in future years to preserve as many full five-day weeks as possible and to shrink the lengthy times off, such as the summer break, based on studies that demonstrate a decline on the part of student retention of skills and information after long breaks.
Updated at 3:20 p.m.