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Parent group gives failing grade to earlier school start

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By Vicky Gits

The lack of enthusiasm for school openings in mid-August is beginning to take its toll.

Jefferson County Schools started on Aug. 12, except Conifer and Evergreen schools, which started Aug. 19.

But Superintendent Cindy Stevenson told parents Aug. 21 the district is reconsidering its decision to begin classes earlier.

Speaking at a regular meeting of the school board, Stevenson said: “We are working on doing a later start. Everybody wants a later start. Everyone also wants a mini-break in October, and they want finals to end before Christmas.”

The calendar committee has been reconvened to work on the matter, Stevenson said.

“Teachers are very concerned because they want to keep the mini-break,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said she takes personal responsibilty for a survey that failed to reach most parents but said she wasn’t eager to repeat the survey.

“A survey doesn’t always result in consensus,” she said.

School board President Scott Benefield echoed Stevenson’s comments.

“We allowed an exception for Conifer and Evergreen schools, so if there was a way to do it there, there should be a way to do it here. We all want a later start,” he said.

The comments came after representatives of a parent group appeared before the board to announce they had started an organization to contest the decision to start schools around Aug. 12 every year through 2011.

“I would like to express tonight, on behalf of the coalition, a grassroots movement of concerned parents, to set a consistent start date for schools that is later in the summer,” said Chandra Hatakeyama, a spokesperson for the group.

The decision to start school earlier was partly based on a flawed process that did not take into account parents’ opinions, Hatakeyama said.

“The principals were instructed to include parent feedback and return one survey for their school. ee A large proportion of your parent community has indicated they were unaware of the survey,” she said.

On its website, www.savecoloradosummers.com, the group suggests a start date in early September.