Hoping for a calmer discussion when it's time to adopt future school calendars, the Board of Education Tuesday called for diverse viewpoints to be represented on a calendar advisory committee to be convened this fall.
The committee will survey student, parents and teachers about their satisfaction with controversial calendar reforms enacted this year, and offer suggestions on whether those reforms should be retained in future calendars, beginning with 2014-15.
This year's reforms, adopted in an emotional 3-2 board vote in 2011, moved the school start date to mid-August so as to squeeze in the first semester before the December holidays. That format will be in effect through 2013-14.
Supporters advocated the calendar reform as a way to give students -- particularly high school students -- a work-free winter break, as most other public and private high schools in the area already have done.
Opponents argued that the new calendar intrudes on traditional family time in August and creates the added stress of finals for high school students in the crowded pre-holiday period.
School officials are preparing to gather satisfaction data on the new calendar as they lay the groundwork for a board vote on future calendars, projected for November 2013.
Assistant Superintendent Scott Bowers will take applications from interested community members to compose a committee that includes four high school students, two high school parents, two middle school parents, four elementary school parents and two school administrators.
The committee will help design surveys of students, parents and staff planned for both January and August of next year -- about their satisfaction with the new calendar.
In addition to diverse representation, board members asked Bowers that the committee create a list of agreed-upon values to guide the calendar discussion.
"Last time our process for the calendar didn't really work. It divided the community," board member Melissa Baten Caswell said.
"We've got to get ahead of it this time."
The calendar advisory committee will advise a separate "calendar committee," comprised of employee union representatives and district staff, which will negotiate a final recommendation to the school board.