Is Aug. 15 too early to start school?

Is Aug. 15 too early to start school?

Should winter break be eight days long, or 10?

And spring break. Should it align with the Ohio State University break? Or maybe it is time to cancel spring break completely.

Those are just a few of the issues that school leaders deal with each spring as the following year's school calendar is approved and the tentative calendars for the following two years are announced.

The 2012-13 calendar will be finalized by the Worthington Board of Education at its meeting next Monday, March 26. Its important points have been discussed for three years, and George Joseph, director of administrative services, expects it to receive a final blessing of the board.

But the calendars for the following two years are now on the school website, and Joseph expects more input before the final important dates are set in stone.

He especially would like to see community comment about the 2014-15 calendar, which has school beginning on Aug. 15 to accommodate a 10-day winter break.

"Everyone can comment online," Joseph said. "We really do look at every comment and consider every suggestion."

The yearly calendars are conceived by a committee of parents, teachers and staff before being introduced to the community and being approved by the board. At each point, from the calendar committee to the school board, there is recurring contention about certain issues.

Some people would like to see schools open closer to Labor Day. To accommodate winter and spring break, end before early June, and include the 180 days required by the state, the early start is necessary.

Next school year, classes will start on Aug. 21; in 2013-14, on Aug. 20; and in 2014-15, on Aug. 15.

The reason for the Aug. 15 start date is the 10-day winter break. Most winter breaks in recent years have been eight days. In 2014, though, Christmas and New Year's Day fall on Thursdays, making an eight-day break difficult to schedule.

Spring break has long been an issue because so many people in the community work or attend classes at Ohio State University and would like to see the break align with the university's.

The coinciding spring breaks have not happened in recent years because mandated state testing is scheduled during that week.

"It's not that we're ignoring it," Joseph assured board member Charlie Wilson at the March 12 board meeting.

Wilson is a law professor at the university and is a proponent of aligning spring breaks.

Next year, the issue becomes even more complex as Ohio State drops the quarter system in favor of semesters.

"When they went to semesters, it just blew it out of the water," Joseph said.

Also at the March 12 board meeting, board member David Bressman questioned the necessity of spring break. Dropping it could shorten the school year, he pointed out.

"Why do we have a spring break?" Bressman asked. "It's not something that is mandated, it's just something we've done."

Joseph said that as far as he knows, the schools have always had spring break.

A new issue that has cropped up in recent years is Election Day. For the next three years, it is a holiday for students, though staff is expected to attend day-long workshops that day.

"I want to get it on the calendar permanently," Joseph said.

Traffic around the schools triples on Election Day, creating a safety hazard, he said.

Board member Marc Schare suggested the district request of the state that the schools no longer be used as polling places, but fellow board members Wilson and Jennifer Best disagreed.

Best said she took her children to the polls with her, and that some seniors are eligible to work at polling places. Both experiences are educational, she said.

"I think we have an obligation to offer our schools as election places," she said.