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Quaker Valley board debates, then approves 2018-19 school calendar

| Monday, Feb. 5, 2018, 11:00 p.m.

Quaker Valley students will have a weeklong spring break in mid-March next school year.

With Easter falling later in the year — on April 21, 2019 — district leaders said they attempted to schedule the district's weeklong spring break earlier in the year, while also giving students three days off around the holiday. Spring break in the district typically coincides with the Easter holiday.

This change to the calendar has been in talks for years, board members said as they approved the 2018-19 calendar at a Jan. 29 meeting.

“In essence, when the Easter holiday is so late in April, where we're right in the middle of standardized assessments and, quite frankly about four or five weeks from ending the school year, it does come off as that's too late to go into a spring break,” said Andrew Surloff, assistant superintendent.

For the 2018-19 school year, kindergarten through ninth- graders will head back to classes Aug. 22; 10th- through 12th-graders will head back Aug. 23.

The last day of school in the 2018-19 school year is set for June 11, 2019.

However, some board members debated if the second week in June is too late for students to be getting out of school.

Board member Kati Doebler asked if toward the end of the school year if the district had not used its closure days, if the last day of school could possibly be bumped to June. 7.

Surloff said he preferred not planning to take away two educational days at the end of the school year, when finals or other activities could be scheduled.

Board member Daniela Helkowski noted she's heard from several parents — and even district employees — who think June 12 is too late to end the year. However, she pointed out that it goes both ways and when she looks at the calendar, Aug. 23 seems too soon to go back, as it's still summer.

Board members debated several options, trying to find two days in the calendar that would allow for school to end the first week of June.

Options they debated included: Making the Monday after Thanksgiving a school day. That was a no-go as the day is the first day of hunting season in Pennsylvania and had been tried during the 2015-16 school year, leaders said.

Board members also debated turning the Jan. 2 teacher inservice day into a day of classes for students and swapping an inservice day elsewhere in the calendar with another day. That was a no-go as Surloff pointed out the teachers' union already had viewed the calendar and he was concerned approving changes without showing them first.

Board President Sarah Heres said the district has had school go into the second week of June in recent years.

Superintendent Heidi Ondek reminded everyone that building a school calendar isn't easy and everyone doesn't always get what they want.

“The saying we like to repeat is that everyone really prefers a later start, an early finish and lots of generous holidays in between,” she said. And instructional time still needs added in there, she said.

Board members agreed.

“We all have days that we personally feel we'd like,” Helkowski said. “Considering what we've all kind of said and heard, Dr. Surloff has said some great points and helped me understand this looks the way it does, I'm not really sure that we have much of a choice but to go with what was presented.”

Stephanie Hacke is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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