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For the next two school years, Manatee County students will start school two weeks earlier than they did this year.
East County Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015 3 years ago

Manatee County schools push forward start date

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An Aug. 10 start date in Manatee County schools has received mixed reviews.
by: Amanda Sebastiano Staff Writer

Although the Manatee County School District said feedback collected about its change in the school calendar has been overwhelmingly supportive, it's certainly not unanimous.

Having the students return to school two weeks earlier in the summer on Aug. 10 was a shock to some parents.

Maria Asaro, who has three children in East County schools, will have to reconsider her family's annual summer trip to Italy, because of the earlier start date.

"Why are they doing this?" Asaro asked. "Why do our kids have to start early? This messes up our family vacation. We stay in Italy for a big holiday celebration that's happening Aug. 16. Now we can't do that."

Jim Neville, a grandparent to a Braden River Elementary student, said the change is an "unnecessary move" by the district.

Starting earlier in the summer concerns B.D. Gullett Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization member Linda Rojack because of the warm temperatures students will endure during recess and physical education.

"We're putting children back in school during the hottest part of summer," Rojack added. "Elementary schools don't have indoor gyms, as middle and high schools do. When the heat index is really high, those schools can divert the children inside, but we can't do that at elementary schools. There's a definite temperature difference in the beginning of August versus the end of the month."

Students who walk or ride their bicycles to school will also feel the heat first-hand, she said.

As the school district's Migrant Student Coordinator, Kate Bloomquist empathizes with the district, but also has concerns about the population of children who move to the county after school starts.

Migrant students, who are children who move with their parent or guardian at least once every three years from within or out of the state because their parents are seeking agriculture work, often don't start classes until October. 

"Many of those students come from Michigan and other farming states," Bloomquist said. "They're already arriving late, so school starting earlier means they'll miss even more school."

Bloomquist said the district has enough programs and educators in place, though, to "bridge the gap" and get those students caught up with their classmates.

"We have a credit recovery program, which usually lasts about three weeks," Bloomquist said. "Those families don't leave for vacations until the beginning of July, so we can still squeeze those lessons in before they leave. This change will give them more time in that program and to prepare for exams or Florida State Assessments, and that's a wonderful thing."

Classes will start Aug. 10 for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years, and will end May 31, 2017 and May 30, 2018. 

Teachers will return Aug. 4 both school years.

The school board made the decision Dec. 8 to start classes in early August after more than a year of vetting the idea with polls and surveys, discussions during board meetings and other efforts to gauge constituents' thoughts about the change from the 2015-2016 calendar. Students started the 2015-2016 school year Aug. 24 and finish on June 9, 2016.

"We’re giving people a lot of notice," School Board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter said. "Last year we tried to do this, start school earlier, and everyone felt it was too short of notice. So this is some good planning time. This change is happening before Christmas and the new year."

Students will still log 180 days in class, as is required by state statutes.

The district decided to change the schedule to allow students to finish exams before winter break, rather than two to three weeks after they return from vacation.

Finishing the tests before a break will keep the information fresh in their minds and take that responsibility off their shoulders, Carpenter said.

"Now, the first semester will be over before Christmas," Carpenter said. "From an academic point of view it's nice to not have anything hanging over the holidays."

Board member David Miner was opposed to the new calendars, because of the class end date, which falls two days after students return from having Memorial Day off.

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