INDIAN RIVER COUNTY – School will be in session the day before Thanksgiving and within a few days of Christmas, the Indian River County School Board decided.
The vote on the calendar was split 3-2, with Board Chair Matt McCain and School Board member Jeff Pegler dissenting. The approved calendar has students returning to school on Monday Aug. 22. The last day of school is Friday June 1.
A couple members of the public spoke out against the approved calendar, urging the board to consider absentee rates on the day before Thanksgiving and the days leading up to Christmas.
Cyndi Fields, who served on the district’s Calendar Advisory Committee, told the board that the calendar the committee came up with was not the one presented to the board for approval.
“Change for the sake of change is not good policy,” Fields said.
Former School Board candidate Richard Marini, whose wife is a teacher, also urged the board to reject the calendar. He said if the board were to approve the calendar as is, it would be a “big morale bust” for the district.
Luke Flynt, a school teacher in the district, reminded the board that the 180 days school is in session are not equal. He said that on the days the board is looking to have school open, Wednesday Nov. 23 and Dec. 19 through 21, there would not be quality education.
Not only would there be many students absent during that time, but also teachers, who would have to call in substitutes.
He also told the board that no other school district in the state has a full day of school the day before Thanksgiving.
“What is it we know that the other 66 (districts) don’t know?” Flynt asked.
Schools Superintendent Dr. Harry La Cava told the School Board that the committee had presented one calendar to him, which he sent back with questions. From there, the committee tweaked the calendar and presented a second one.
La Cava said he didn’t see any major differences between the calendars and so selected one to take to the board.
Prevailing School Board members Claudia Jimenez, Karen Disney-Brombach and Carol Johnson supported the calendar, mainly because it addresses parents’ lack of childcare when school is out.
“It happens every time,” Johnson said of when school is out, “kids are taking care of kids.”
McCain, who joked his wife would send him to the sofa if he supported the calendar, said he would rather see a calendar that has Nov. 23 off as well as the full week leading to Christmas.
“It does such a service” for families, he said of giving them the time to travel during the holidays.
He said he knows not all children are fortunate enough to travel.
Jimenez pointed to the elevated levels of students enrolled on free/reduced lunch plans at the schools due to the economy, saying that those are children who probably won’t have the ability to travel for Thanksgiving or during Winter Break.
“Where are those children when Mom and Dad are working?” she asked, adding that those are the parents the School District doesn’t hear from because they don’t have the time to speak.
“We need to be mindful,” to think of all the children, Jimenez said.
Pegler, whose wife is a teacher, also said he would not support the calendar – but for public input reasons. He said he was concerned that the public had not had enough time to review the calendar and provide input.
In response to questions raised about absenteeism, Disney-Brombach said the rate of teachers absent is more than that of students.
She also suggested that the School District better define the role of the Calendar Advisory Committee and what its expectations should be.