DeKalb schools to shorten summer break

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DeKalb schools to shorten summer break

The DeKalb County school system will shift to a “balanced” attendance calendar next fall, despite a survey showing most parents oppose the change.

The school board voted 6-2 Monday for the new calendar. (Board member Sarah Copelin-Wood was absent.) It will clip nearly two weeks from summer break and sprinkle those vacation days in fall and winter.

Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson has said students forget too much during the traditional three-month summer break. She proposed the new calendar after a survey showed most teachers wanted it.

School will start Aug. 5 instead of Aug. 12 and will end May 29 instead of May 23. This will allow a three-day fall break from Oct. 7 to Oct. 9 and a four-day winter break — Feb. 18 to Feb. 21 — tacked onto President’s Day.

In a recent online survey taken by about 4,300 parents, 59 percent favored the traditional calendar versus 41 percent for the balanced calendar, said Deputy Superintendent Kathleen Howe.

Teachers, however, overwhelmingly wanted the change. Howe said a survey was distributed to all teachers, and nearly 5,800 took it: 68 percent wanted a balanced calendar.

That led board members including Donna Edler to support the change. Teachers bore the brunt of budget cuts this year, and Edler said this was a concession she was willing to make.

But Nancy Jester and Don McChesney voted no because of the imposition on parents, who will have to find child care during periods when it is harder to find than in summer. “I think we’re losing a lot of parent goodwill,” Jester said.

Parent Larry Jackson was in the sparse crowd Monday. He has two daughters, one who will enter pre-kindergarten in DeKalb next year and another from a prior marriage who lives out of state. DeKalb’s curtailed summer break will cut into the time the sisters can spend together, he said. Child care won’t be an issue for him, since he often works from home. “I can manipulate my schedule,” he said. “But most people can’t.”

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