Medford schools will start before Labor Day

It's official: Summer will be a week shorter this year.

The Medford School Board approved a change Monday night to the calendar that will start the school year a week before Labor Day for the first time. The year will end a week earlier in June 2019.

The district has considered shifting the school calendar since May 2015, Superintendent Brian Shumate said. At various board meetings, administrators brought up concerns they'd heard from staff and students about the current calendar. One is that third quarter extends through spring break. For high school students, that has meant going into the break with finals still looming.

But under the new calendar, spring break, while still falling on the last week of March, will happen between third and fourth quarter. Students can get a break from thinking about their final grades during their days off.

The number of instructional days will remain the same at 175, but will be distributed differently. Shumate said one of the benefits of the new schedule is that students in Advanced Placement classes will attend more instructional days before their exams in May.

The district sought parent, student and staff input on the idea for the second time in the fall by way of a survey offered during parent-teacher conferences and online. Those results showed a moderate preference for the change, with 54 percent of respondents saying they either fully supported moving to the new schedule or thought it was a good idea.

Another 11 percent of respondents were neither for nor against the change; 10.5 percent said they were against the idea but wouldn’t actively fight it, and 21.3 percent thought it was a bad idea that they would “have difficulty supporting.”

Two concerns raised during the board meetings centered on the weather being hotter during an earlier start to the school year, and a potential disruption to families' vacation plans around Labor Day. The new schedule gives families a four-day Labor Day weekend. The weather was deemed a surmountable obstacle.

"It was hot this year. And it was smoky this year. We survived," Shumate said at an October work session.

The survey received more responses than it had the previous year, and district spokeswoman Natalie Hurd said that most comments received were in favor of the change. Two board members, Jim Horner and Jeff Kinsella, expressed concern that there had been only 2,388 responses. The district's most recent update on enrollment reported 14,215 students in Medford schools, counting charter schools.

When the vote came, however, the board passed the calendar unanimously.

The calendar will take effect next school year, beginning on Aug. 27, 2018, and ending June 5, 2019.

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