The Evanston/Skokie District 65 School Board received a snootful of concern Monday night about the ambience of its schools on those hot days of late August.

“I can’t describe to you the smell of a 93-95-degree day in a brick middle school” in August, said Paula Zelinski, a teacher at Haven Middle School, who is also vice president of the District Educators Council (DEC), the teachers union.

Her remarks came during public comment on the 2013-14 school calendar, that as currently drafted calls for school to begin on August 26, which is the Monday before Labor Day. This year, school began on Sept. 4, the day after Labor Day.

The board decided there was not much they could do about the upcoming year, as it strives to maintain the same start date as Evanston Township High School.

But Board President Katie Bailey was insistent that the district draw a firm line in the sand when it comes to the 2015-16 school year when there are five Mondays in August.  She said the high school wants to start on the fourth Monday, which in 2015 would be two weeks before Labor Day.

While members Richard Rykhus and Tracy Quattrocki were sympathetic to Bailey’s views, they said it was more important that the two districts start school on the same day, as many families count on the older kids to take care of the younger ones while the parents are at work.

Zelinski, the Haven teacher, said it was a “huge issue, because we want optimal circumstances for educating kids.”

In fact, it was such a major issue that the new teachers contract calls for the district to conduct a study about the feasibility of air-conditioning the district’s schools, as pressure is building for schools to operate on a year-round basis.

Superintendent Hardy Murphy assured the board last night that the air-conditioning study is nearing completion and will be presented to the board next month.

In the meantime, President Bailey directed the board secretary to include a public forum devoted to the 2013-14 school calendar on the agenda at the start of the March 5 meeting, to give board members input from the public before formally adopting the new calendar on March 18.

Related story:

Public gets first look at 2013-14 school calendar

Charles Bartling

A resident of Evanston since 1975, Chuck Bartling holds a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and has extensive experience as a reporter and editor for daily newspapers, radio...

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