Boise school board backs calendar compromise

Boise school board members backed a scheduling compromise Monday night, voting to begin the 2018-19 school year Aug. 20.

For months, parents, staffers, students and local businesses have engaged in a spirited debate over when to begin the school year.

After surveying patrons this spring, district officials originally proposed an Aug. 15 start date. They said the move would allow the district to end the first semester before winter break, and end the school year before Memorial Day.

But the early start date riled some residents and business owners. Opponents, including officials from a local water park, organized a social media opposition campaign called Save Idaho Summers that pushed back and called for more public outreach.

School officials recognized the concerns, and floated a compromise last month to move the start date back to Aug. 20. By shuffling in-service days, the compromise still called for the ending the first semester before winter break.

A.J. Balukoff

Ultimately, that’s the plan board members approved Monday.

“We saved at least a weekend, if not an entire summer, and that’s a start,” school board member A.J. Balukoff said.

More than 60 people crammed into district offices for Monday’s meeting. Board members took public comment for just over one hour, with testimony divided among attendees. Overall, 11 speakers supported pushing the start back even later, while 10 supported the calendar compromise.

Several teachers spoke in favor of the district’s compromise, saying it benefits students to front-load the calendar with instruction instead of extending the end of the school year after major assessment tests are complete.

“I know not everybody takes AP courses, but any extra instruction days (prior to the tests, as opposed to after the tests) are really helpful for them,” Boise High School calculus teacher Marti Dinkelman said. “Any extra instructional time is amazing in order to make a connection for them and build their confidence so they are not just memorizing a list of facts.”

On the other side, several parents and business owners said an early start would rob students and families of time they could spend together outdoors, working summer jobs or presenting in 4-H programs at the fair. Because of Idaho’s climate, they argued summer vacation days in August are more valuable than in May or June.

“The calendar used to start, clearly, at the end of August,” Boise resident Rebecca McDonald said. “But slowly, but surely — and the last couple of years especially — it has been pushed up and pushed up.”

Boise resident Annie Black said she was disappointed in the process the district used to set its calendar, and called for more public participation.

Board member Beth Oppenheimer said she appreciated the call for additional participation and said the district will work to be more inclusive.

Two high school students waded into the debate, with both supporting the district’s plan.

“In reality, the amount of studying that’s going to be done over winter break is not really… there,” North Junior High ninth-grader Max Anderson said. “No one really wants to spend their whole break studying for final exams.”

For comparison, school started Aug. 22 this year. Next year’s start date is Aug. 20.

Key dates, Boise 2018-19 school year

  • Aug. 20, 2018: First day of school.
  • Dec. 21: End of first semester.
  • Jan 7, 2019: Classes resume.
  • May 24: Last day of school.

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