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UPDATED: School Board Nixes August Start Date—For Now

After a large turnout and everyone speaking in opposition of the proposal at the Northfield School Board meeting on Monday, the board decided the time wasn't right for the change.

UPDATED: 9 a.m. Tuesday to include a statement from Superintendent Chris Richardson.

The proposed calendar that would have started Northfield schools on Aug. 13 is no more—at least for now.

After a large turnout and everyone speaking in opposition of the proposal at the Northfield School Board meeting on Monday, the board decided the time wasn't right for the change.

The board voted unanimously to direct administration to stop pursuing a balanced calendar for next school year and to cancel the upcoming public meetings regarding the balanced calendar, which were scheduled for this week and next week. In addition, the board directed administration to develop a strategy to engage the community in an ongoing discussion looking at different calendar options for the future. 

Superintendent Chris Richardson posted the following message on the district website Tuesday morning:

Dear Families,

At last evening’s Board of Education meeting, 26 parents, students and community members spoke with concern about the proposed change to the school district calendar structure for 2013-14. We appreciate the public sharing their concerns, especially regarding the desire to maintain access to summer activities and the accelerated timeline for considering its approval under State flexible learning year application requirements.

The Board voted unanimously to stop consideration of a more balanced calendar for the 2013-14 school year.  They directed administration to recommend a 2013-14 calendar in an upcoming meeting based on the traditional academic year with an after Labor Day start.

In addition, the Board directed the administration to cancel the three public meetings about the balanced calendar.  The meetings scheduled for January 15, 17 and 22 will not be held.  Further they requested that administration develop a plan to more deeply engage our community in a discussion about what kind of academic calendar will most benefit students in the future.  We will share more about this process and how to become involved after it is reviewed by the Board of Education.

Respectfully,

Chris Richardson, Superintendent

The Say NO to the Proposed 2013-14 Northfield School Calendar Facebook page shared messages of relief Monday night.

According to the Say NO Facebook page: 

Big News! The School Board has *just* voted to table this issue for a year. This is GREAT short term, but it means that we have a big battle ahead of us. Even though every single person tonight spoke out against these changes, the superintendent is pushing ahead - relentlessly. He wants to pass this - this is clearly what he wants to be his legacy. So we'll continue to need everyone's support and engagement over the course of the year: engaging others, attending meetings, providing feedback. You all helped make this happen....thanks, Northfielders!

A minute after the first message, this message was posted:

You all did it! The Board is currently entertaining a motion to cancel the application for the calendar variance with the state, cancel the public meetings, and initiate a series of public meetings to decide if an eventual change to our calendar will be of benefit. THAT will be a conversation worth having, so please stay tuned! For now we go with a traditional calendar! Thanks for all of your input and work to spread the word!

The group started on Friday after the proposed dates were released in a story on Patch. A petition was also started, which has garnered 293 signatures.

Since the proposal was made last month, there have been plenty of critics of the idea.

Nicole Linder, who started the petition, has written on Patch saying the shift in days would negatively affect family gatherings, summer activities and 4-H preparation heading into the Minnesota State Fair. 

"That is GREAT news! Thank you all for everything you've done!" Sara Connelly, who was interviewed by WCCO earlier Monday about the calendar, wrote on the group's Facebook page.

The school board will consider the more traditional calendar, which has already been drawn up and includes a Sept. 3 start date, at a future meeting.


Read other school calendar posts on Patch

  • School Would Start Aug. 13 Under Proposed Calendar
  • Could School Start in Mid-August? District Exploring Calendar Changes

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Corey Butler Jr. January 15, 2013 at 06:17 AM
What do you think of the board's decision?
sarah lyman January 15, 2013 at 02:46 PM
I think the calendar change would be a good thing and I hope that it gets brought back again soon. Sorry but family gatherings and 4H are not enough of a reason to stop this going ahead. Gatherings can be changed and 4H is not the be all and end all. I would welcome the adjustment to the school year for my children.
Parent4 January 15, 2013 at 03:00 PM
But this was not about family vacations and 4H. This was about the fact that there was no educational research/data supporting this proposed move (which the superintendent admitted), and parents/teachers/community had not been consulted. AND that simply trying to game the system for the possibility of higher test scores does nothing to change our children's education or their learning outcomes. People spoke out about their personal circumstances because of the timing (they had already made plans for the summer, etc), but the prevailing sentiment was that there are not compelling reasons to make this change. I'm not a 4H person, but if you had been there to hear those amazing kids speak, you might have felt differently. If they are an example of the kind of kids our community is producing, we should be very, very proud.
Dan Cupersmith January 15, 2013 at 03:12 PM
I would like to commend the board for listening to all the people that spoke last night and for taking direct action immediately. They could have easily moved on to other issues last night and kept the schedule with public meetings next week. A vote on the topic was not even scheduled last night. The entire board recognized that this was hot topic with the community and put a stop to it, for now. Well done. As for Richardson, right or wrong, the fast paced schedule was not up to him. The state's guidelines are what forced the horrible timing. The board has asked to the administration to think outside the box when it comes to bridging the education gap and that is what the administration is doing. It is up to the board to review and discuss the ideas and make decisions on which should be implemented. This is what happened last night and I think board did the right thing.
Joy Amunrud January 15, 2013 at 04:06 PM
I completely agree Sarah. I would take it a step further and advocate for a year round calendar. Summer vacations are far too long and brings on unnecessary learning gaps. There is research to support it. Look at Harris Cooper's research on the summer learning loss.
nicole Linder January 15, 2013 at 04:42 PM
What a great night! It was truly a joy to see all the community involvement. A big thank you to all that spoke up at the meeting and supported this issue in multiple ways!!! I was so proud of the group of kids from Rice County 4-H that attended the meeting. You all spoke beautifully. The kids ranged in age from 8 to high school. I am sure their parents and 4-H leaders are very proud too. I have to thank Kari Nelson from the school board as well. This could have easily been turned into an angry mob situation. She heard our concerns and responded. She did it in a wonderful way in which everyone in the room parents, board members, and the Superintendent felt respected and heard. Kudos! This was my first board meeting and it was not a comfortable situation for me. I am encouraged though to stay involved. I will continue to follow this issue as Calendar talks continue the following year. We will keep up our facebook page as we continue to follow this issue. I think it is insulting for people to say this was just about 4-H and vacations. There were so many reasons. If that is all that you picked out- you were not following the issue. The students are doing great with the current calendar. The Superintendent even admitted the students test scores have improved with this calendar. The school board works for us. If the majority of the town wants a certain type of calendar- that is the calendar we should do.
Cathy Malecha January 15, 2013 at 05:52 PM
Summer vacation = learning gaps? I think it's the responsibility of the parents to continue teaching at home during the summer. I don't think this is about 4H and summer vacations. Dr. Richardson wants more time for the MCA testings etc.... My personal opinion is that if Nfld schools are hurting/failing in some of the state testing areas, then why not change up the way things are being taught - and when they're being taught. People have their fingers pointed at the children in the district who are failing state testing which they HAVE TO PASS in order to graduate. If Northfield wants to change up the school year to better testing scores and that doesn't work, then who do we blame then? Change needs to happen within the school AND at home.
Cathy Malecha January 15, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Agree, agree, agree! My point - if this new proposed "balanced calendar" didn't work after one year and state test scores didn't improve, what would need to be changed next??

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