Washoe District Considers School Calendar Change

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School children in Washoe County would begin classes in early August and be out for the summer in May under a proposal being weighed by district officials.

The change would allow the fall term to end in December before the long winter vacation, instead of carrying over into January.

Supporters of the idea say it would allow students to take final exams before they forget what they learned over the two-week December break.

But others counter it's difficult for students to concentrate in December because they're looking forward to the holidays.

School calendars already are set through 2005-06, with classes starting the week before Labor Day, so the earliest a change could take effect would be 2006-07.

Currently, the first semester ends in January, after the break over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Hug High School freshman Sean Morris, 14, said he'd welcome the change.

Returning from winter break and trying to remember material from December is difficult, he said.

"It would be easier if we did that so we don't forget," Morris told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Hug freshman Ron Swanson, 15, said an early end to the school year is the best thing about the proposal.

"If we get out in May, we'd beat the summer heat and have more cooler days on our break," Swanson said.

Another reason cited for the change during a recent meeting between the district and Washoe Education Association officials was that some families move during winter break.

If the changes take effect, students enrolling or changing schools wouldn't start near the end of a term.

A committee of district staff, principals, parents and teachers and classified employee union officials is being formed to study the idea and make a recommendation, district spokesman Steve Mulvenon said.

"My thinking is that if the committee came up with suggested changes, we'd need to hold some public hearings and sessions to get broader advice," Mulvenon said.

"When you start changing a school calendar, ripple effects occur in the community."

Natha Anderson, an English teacher at North Valleys High School, said she opposes adjusting the calendar.

Starting school in early August would interfere with teachers taking summer classes, she said.

She also questioned whether students would do better on exams given just before the winter break.

"They're already on vacation," she said.

Jonnie Pullman, president of the Washoe County school board, said she wants information from other school districts to prove that such a schedule improves student achievement.

"If not, it needs more compelling evidence," Pullman said. "In a vacuum, it would be a great idea. But we haven't looked at enough information to make a decision."