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Could School Start in Mid-August? District Exploring Calendar Changes

In this week's video, Superintendent Chris Richardson talks about the district's exploration of a "balanced calendar," which could see the school year start in mid-August and end around Memorial Day.

Editor's note: The school district will host three public meetings to discuss the proposed calendar changes with the community.


UPDATED: Friday, Jan. 11: The district has released more information about the proposed calendar, including start and end dates of the school year.

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In this week's video, Superintendent Chris Richardson talks about the district's exploration of a "balanced calendar," which could see next school year start in mid-August and end around Memorial Day.

The focus of the balanced calendar, according to Richardson, would be to "align instructional periods, reduce shortened weeks and holiday interruptions, and increase instructional days prior to high stakes assessments to aid retention of learning and reduce re-teaching and review."

Richardson and the Northfield School Board are in early discussions about next year's calendar and will have one finalized in the spring. Before a calendar is finalized, there needs to be three public hearings and it has to be approved by the Minnesota Department of Education.

Should the district settle on this type of calendar, Richardson said students will have the same amount of days in school as they do now.

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Alex Smith January 01, 2013 at 01:18 AM
That's stupid.. who wants to start school in August?
C Benson January 01, 2013 at 01:28 AM
Are all of Northfield's classrooms air conditioned?
Rob Hardy January 02, 2013 at 02:07 PM
I've been following the petition, and a problem I see is that it's attracting signatures from people outside of the school district (for example, from Ohio and New Jersey), who (as far as I can tell) aren't affected by the school board's decision. So I would encourage you to contact school board members directly, and, if you can, attend one of the public meetings in the middle of this month: http://northfield.org/content/northfield-public-school-district-hosts-public-meetings-january
nicole Linder January 02, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Actually I think the schools are air conditioned now. St Dominic School is not. It is always 1000 degrees at the fall open house so school in August in that building will be a real treat for the kids and staff.
Melanie Holder January 02, 2013 at 03:42 PM
Isn't summer in Minnesota short enough without stealing away two more weeks? The video mentions instruction until Memorial Day (the end of May) and not mid-May as is being touted elsewhere. Believe it or not, there is more to these kids lives than school and standardized tests. There is time with family, friends, and community. There is FREE TIME to dream and innovate and play (is it a wonder that so many children are obese?). There is time to get part time jobs and learn about the working world while still not needing every dime to live. If our schools can't achieve what they need to achieve in 9 months I fail to see how 9 months + 8 days is going to rock the world. This 'teach the test' mentality is ridiculous. Let's review the time kids are already in the classroom and make the most of that instead. I also don't understand the need for an MEA during the school year at all. That could be held before or after the school year for students.
nicole Linder January 02, 2013 at 05:39 PM
I encourage everyone who is against this to sign the petition and tell the school board what you think. Inform your family and friends in the district. Many people in town know nothing about this proposed calendar change. The timing of the email alert was not exactly citizen friendly since is came during the holiday break. Many people missed it. We have very little time to stop this. PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD AND GET INVOLVED!!! We need to be at the board meetings and have arguments that refute the proposed schedule. Feel free to contact me at coznicki@yahoo.com if you have ideas and want to be involved.
Corey Butler Jr. January 03, 2013 at 05:07 PM
Richardson gives an update about the public meetings in this video: http://patch.com/A-0L4C
nicole Linder January 04, 2013 at 05:46 PM
The academic reasons for the proposed calendar are not supported by research; however, I am not going to speak to that as there are others with this expertise working on those issues. I want to talk to you as a parent. Summer is a sacred time for families when we can really bond with our kids. The school year is such a busy time. After classes and maybe one school activity- it’s homework, dinner and off to bed. Summer is a time for family learning. Last summer I began teaching my son to water- ski and the time he spent fishing with his dad was priceless. He learned the art of public speaking during the preparation for The Defeat Of Jesse James Days. He learned how to make a 4-H project and talk about it at the Dakota County Fair. He completed his first kid’s Triathlon for the YMCA. He and his sister learned to ride a horse on a family vacation. These are things the MCA can’t teach you. I can’t wait to give my three –year- old daughter the same experiences. I know you all have your own summer memories that are precious to you. Summer is short enough in MN. Let’s not lose it out of apathy or fear of speaking up. We can have an opinion and don’t need to apologize for it. Please sign the petition and pass this information on to everyone you know. We need to tell the school board how we feel about this important matter.
Lindsay Rimpila January 05, 2013 at 11:02 PM
I am opposed to starting prior to Labor Day for the reasons the board is using. It does not propose any additional days of instruction. If eight days will make or break the ability for a child to pass the standardized testing, I would propose we close that gap by taking back the two hours every Wednesday that the board has already taken from our students and return those hours to actual instruction time again. Also I don't believe the boards members accurately account for the community as a whole. Northfield is a farming community, do we really need to put children who will miss school to attend 4 h events and other obligations at a disadvantage by missing school right off the bat? This is Minnesota and our summers are short and those days at the end of August are special for many families. I for one would need a more compelling argument to take those days away from my kids! I believe that time helps mold our children into futue productive citizens as much as a good education! This proposal will not benefit the children in any way that I can see. We need to make our voices heard be it at the meetings or contacting the board members and Richardson directly. I am not sure who this would benefit but clearly the board has its own agenda.
Rob Hardy January 05, 2013 at 11:20 PM
As a new member of the school board, I am eager to receive input from members of the community. I've emailed someone at Rice County 4-H, asking for their perspective on the proposed changes (I'm still awaiting a reply), and I would appreciate the perspective of people engaged in late-summer 4-H and farming activities. I am the first to admit to being in a kind of academic, town-dwelling bubble. This process is an opportunity for me to learn more about this community and its concerns. I want to be be able to think outside my own little bubble, and to make my decisions based on a wider perspective. You can help provide me with that perspective. Please email me at Rob.Hardy@nfld.k12.mn.us with your feedback.
nicole Linder January 05, 2013 at 11:55 PM
Cheers to Lindsay!! So well said!!! An hour less school on Weds does add up. I encourage you and everyone else who is against this to sign the petition. Link is above on an earlier comment. This petition will be printed out and taken to the board at the Jan. meeting. Rob, it appears the school board website is a bit out of date. I did not see your name on the school board website that I posted at the end of the petition. If you all could update that- it would be great so we know who we are supposed to be talking to. Rob, 4-H is just the tip of the ice berg. We are against the August start date for many, many reasons. If you read the comments that will tell you a lot. Feel free to check out all the comments on the petition page as well.
nicole Linder January 06, 2013 at 12:20 AM
Also, FYI- We are involved in 4-H and we live on the Dakota County side of Northfield. The Dakota County Fair goes until August 13 or 14 this coming summer. There are many kids in Northfield that belong to a Dakota County 4-H group. Starting school in August will ruin the State Fair but, may very well disturb the County fair as well.
Rob Hardy January 06, 2013 at 01:01 AM
Nicole: The page (http://nfld.k12.mn.us/about/board/) has been updated. I am following the comments here, and on the petition, and I welcome emails at the address above. I also have a blog (http://robhardy.wordpress.com/) where I have written about this issue, and where you can leave comments.
Rob Hardy January 06, 2013 at 01:06 AM
I should also add, Nicole, that if you, or anyone, wants to meet with me to discuss this issue in person, you should contact me at the email address or phone number listed on the school board website (http://nfld.k12.mn.us/about/board/).
Lindsay Rimpila January 06, 2013 at 04:19 PM
I will be in touch Rob. I am afraid the board as a whole is in that "bubble" and that Needs to change. if you want more instruction before the tests revoke the late start Wednesdays and actually use that to instruct our kids.
Corey Butler Jr. January 09, 2013 at 01:55 AM
The Northfield News has a story about the petition/opposition to the proposed changes. http://www.southernminn.com/northfield_news/news/article_c52a4302-d3da-5fd4-b7ac-33f40eac4543.html
Nancy Johnson January 09, 2013 at 05:20 AM
Minneapolis average high and low temperatures from http://www.weather.com/weather/wxclimatology/monthly/graph/USMN0503 MAY: average high 69, average low 49 AUGUST: average high 81, average low 62
nicole Linder January 09, 2013 at 02:34 PM
Good point. The busses are not air conditioned either. Some kids ride an hour on the bus. Will be a hot ride home from school.
Gregory Walter January 11, 2013 at 12:43 PM
This proposal is driven by the high stakes test, a test which already severely distorts our classrooms. Culture, family habits, and so on aside, I think the focus should be on the way this testing drives decisions that shape education. Secondarily, this also represents a change in contract. What does the Northfield teacher's union say?
Dan Cupersmith January 11, 2013 at 01:48 PM
When I was running for school board, a question about year round school came up at the student lead forum. At that time, all the candidates said they would want to get community feedback before making a decision. Richardson has said this is not year round school, but it is a step in that direction. Now is your chance Northfield. You need to contact the board and let them know how you feel. As for me, I am against this change. The benefits don't outweigh the disruptions to families or costs to the district. If we are not adding any additional instruction days and the main reason is to prep for "high-stake" tests, then why do it? I would also like to see some sort of measurement for the late start on Wednesdays? If those late starts are not having the intended impact, then use those hours. I am also concerned that this change is trying to be put into place for the next school year. Why the rush? Why not wait until the 2014/2015 school year? This is not fair to the families that already have vacation plans (possibly with non-refundable deposits), 4-h plans, or other commitments. This is simply not enough notice. I predict that many parents will choose to pull their kids from class rather than change their plans. I also question why the district has already applied for the change in start date with the state prior to having any public meetings on the issue. It seems like someone is putting the cart before the horse.
JJ January 13, 2013 at 02:43 AM
Many families that not only work for the district, but also have children in the district have a huge increase in child care costs if this is passed. Until I see data and research that strongly says starting this early really will benefit our children, I am very much against this poorly thought out proposal. Maybe teachers and community members should have been asked their opinions first before it was given to us only a few weeks before the first meeting! It's ridiculous!!
JJ January 13, 2013 at 02:51 AM
I think the community of Northfield really values our family time in the summer as our months of warmth are very short. I also think you have no idea what the work load is for a teacher by your comments Betsy. I invite you to be a teacher before you make comments about them not working year round. Pretty inconsiderate considering how many hours teachers put in outside of the regular school day. It's not as easy and glamorous as you're making it sound.
JJ January 13, 2013 at 02:56 AM
Well said...thank-you!!!!
Corey Butler Jr. January 14, 2013 at 01:44 AM
The district has released more information about the proposed changes. http://patch.com/A-0ZZG
Mosquito January 14, 2013 at 02:00 PM
Why mention St. Dominic?
Sara Liebl January 14, 2013 at 04:01 PM
The proposal is actually 3 weeks early vs the traditional tuesday after Labor Day. What would be the cost of starting 3 weeks early and can our current cooling systems adequate enough to keep the buildings cool in the dog days of August when the are filled with students and staff?
Sara Liebl January 14, 2013 at 04:04 PM
Why would you not mention St. Dominics? They are school within the district. The 7th and 8th graders spend part of their day at the middle school and the kids that attend St. Dominic ride the same buses as the public school. They are a school within the district and should be considered. The schedule affects them just as it does any other student within the district.
Sara Liebl January 14, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Nicole my youngest two (5 and 7) are the bus for an hour and a half on the days I am not able to get to school to pick them up. Granted they are St. Dom's kids, but there are two busses that leave St. Dom's at 2:35 and my kids do not get home until after 4 pm. I als have a child in middle school who is on just over an hour each afternoon and one at Sibley who is on for just shy of an hour in the evening. This does include there 45 - 1 hour commute each morning. When it is hot they are completey exhausted and crabby when they get off that bus.
Mosquito January 14, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Sure they're a school within the district, but they're not a public school. St. Dominics is a private school and they can do whatever they want with their school calendar. If they like their current calendar they're free to keep it. If they want to have school every other day and twice on Saturdays, they can do that. If they want to align themselves with the public schools, that's good too. The district should base their decisions on the well-being of the public school students. A private school should not dictate the calendar because they don't want to provide air conditioning any more than they should dictate the hours of the school day because they don't want to have to turn on the lights.
nicole Linder January 14, 2013 at 04:41 PM
Hey Mosquito, The board needs to listen to all the people that pay taxes in this community. That is what supports our schools. St. Dominic is a school that provides a benefit to the community. They also have a working relationship with the public schools. Of course they are a consideration. Just like the charter schools in town. We are all working together to educate children in this town.

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