Administration considers later start next year

By Katie Corker 2004

Preliminary steps are being taken in the Cedar Falls District that will determine the fate of next year’s school calendar, and according to CFHS Principal Dean Dreyer, the district has a “99 percent chance of starting later next year.”

Superintendent Dr. Dan Smith said, “We are trying to understand what the school district’s position is on a later start.”

The main consequence of starting later is a later end to school, Smith said. “Most people understand that if you start school later and you keep other things like winter and spring breaks intact, you end later,” Smith said. “The main effect is that everything moves back.”

Next year, if Cedar Falls opts to start later or is forces to start later by the State, school would probably begin Aug. 30 and end around June 7, Smith said.

According to Smith, the process to determine next year’s calendar will go through a specific sequence. First, Smith will consult the superintendent’s advisory group, which is a representative group of teachers from throughout the district. He will next consult the principals of schools is the districts, and finally, a formal suggestion for school calendar will be presented to the school board, probably in December.

A heat wave this August sparked a controversy in the Iowa Statehouse concerning school start dates. “There is a state law that mandates school must begin the week of Sept. 1,” Dreyer said. “This probably means that we’ll start later next year unless the law changes.”

This year, 354 waivers were granted to allow school district’s statewide to begin classes earlier than the selected start date. There are 370 school districts in Iowa.

Smith has been superintendent of Cedar Falls Schools since 1990, and according to him, there have been four instances of heat waves in late August that forced school to let out early multiple times. This year, school was dismissed early four times because of heat.

“Statistically, it’s not as hot in early June as it is in late August,” Smith said, “but, often times students are less focused in June.”

School districts statewide are considering the possibility of a later start next year. The Des Moines School District has already announced it will begin classes Aug. 30 next year.

Some school districts are considering the possibility of eliminating breaks, such as spring break, in an effort to keep school from letting out in early to mid-June.

“There has been no serious discussion yet as to the removal of breaks (in Cedar Falls),” Smith said. “It’s my opinion that breaks are well-situated . They make people more productive and refreshed.”

Smith also said that he doesn’t rule out the possibility of discussions about breaks. “I’m not real excited about dropping spring break,” he said. “Winter break is pretty much secure. Other schools have looked at dropping spring break, but I don’t favor it. That doesn’t mean we (the school board) won’t talk about it.”

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