“It’s not conducive for working parents”
The changes made to this year’s school calendar are getting some attention from parents who are frustrated by the amount of vacation time students have been given this year, with 37 weekdays away from the classroom and several stretches lasting longer than a week.
At a regular meeting of the school board on Monday, November 26, Crested Butte Community School parent Tricia Kubisiak stopped by to express her concerns about the burden this year’s calendar is putting on working parents.
Kubisiak presented the board with a calendar on which she had marked school breaks, noting that students get time off almost every month of the school year, including a week at Thanksgiving and a week for fall break, which, combined with a staff development day, kept kids away from school for 10 consecutive days, including the weekend in between.
“How can this be conducive to learning?” Kubisiak asked the board. “Especially that October break. That’s got to go. And there are a lot of parents and teachers who are with me on this … so how many signatures do I need? I’ll get 200 names tomorrow if I have to, because parents are mad.”
School board member Bill Powell was hesitant to give public petitions sway over school board policy and board president Jim Perkins recommended Kubisiak start with the Crested Butte Community School Site Accountability Committee (SAC), which has a representative on the district’s calendar committee.
Kubisiak said she would talk to the calendar committee to make sure they are aware of her concerns and to suggest some changes that would help relieve some of the pressure the new calendar is putting on parents.
“It’s $45 a day to put a kid in camp from nine to three and with two kids that’s $90 a day. Today’s people who live here work all year round. It isn’t so resort-oriented anymore,” she said. “[The calendar] is archaic, it’s outdated and parents are mad. So I’ll go to the site accountability committee and try to get it changed.”
But the changes made to this year’s calendar were relatively minor, according to superintendent Jon Nelson, with the biggest change being an entire week off at Thanksgiving, instead of just three days off around the holiday.
That change was made because some of the district sites were seeing absentee rates of 40 percent or more on the days prior to the start of Thanksgiving break.
Kubisiak’s concern was the number of consecutive days kids have off in the current calendar. Perkins explained that the calendar is different in Crested Butte and the Gunnison Schools and that the calendar has evolved over time as state mandates have required, with days added to the school calendar in the last three years.
“We’re trying to get to a certain number of days,” board member Don Hagar explained. “Would it suit your needs better if school started later and ended earlier in the year?”
There is also an argument to be made that taking longer breaks every six to eight weeks is conducive to learning, Nelson says, as students and teachers have an opportunity to recharge and process what they’ve learned.
Kubisiak responded, “It doesn’t suit me either way. I just don’t want so many consecutive days off in a row. It’s not conducive for working parents … The teachers are even complaining to me about this.”
However, as Hagar pointed out, the district is trying to get a certain number of ‘student contact’ days into the calendar, to which three additional days have been added in the last three years. And those are three days parents don’t have to find daycare for their children.
“We should always make our decisions based on what’s best for kids and when we do that we’re probably going to make some parents upset,” Nelson says. “That’s just how it goes.”
Perkins thanked Kubisiak for going to the meeting and sharing her thoughts with the board. He asked that she get involved with the CBCS SAC as soon as possible so the details can be worked out this spring, before the board approves next year’s calendar.