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Waxahachie ISD interested in statewide calendar limits

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Ellis County Press

WAXAHACHIE - At least one school district in Ellis County supports legislation to set statewide parameters for school calendars.

'I think the district as a whole would be willing to work with any parameters the state provides,' said Waxahachie ISD spokesperson Candace Ahlfinger. 'In some ways it would make our job simpler working with other districts.'

Ahlfinger said under the current system problems arise when students move from district to district. 'It is often difficult to be on the same time schedule,' she said.

Legislation proposed by Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsville) would prevent public schools from starting classes before August 21 and require the last day of school to be no later than June 7.

According to Texans for a Traditional School Year, a coalition of parents and teachers pushing for the change, early start dates cause widespread problems.

'When school starts in early August, many kids are not reporting to class,' said spokesperson Tina Bruno. 'Last year, 250,000 kids across Texas were not in school on the first day of class.'

The group also notes teachers have difficulty completing advanced degree work or taking other continuing education courses and families suffer from diminished family time.

'Parents have had enough,' said Sandi Mann, a concerned parent. 'What we have today is a bloated school calendar and we have seen no evidence this calendar is better for our kids. Days of instruction have not increased; the only increase is the number of vacation days and interruptions during the school year.'

But Ahlfinger says days of instruction have increased in the last few decades. 'Since 1968 there have been 10 class days added by the state,' she said. 'One or two at a time, up to 180 days from 170.'

Ahlfinger indicated Waxa-hachie's calendar for the 2000-2001 school year was set according to historical guidelines.

'Last year was really an exception because of the opening of Wedgeworth,' said Ahlfinger.

Classes began on Thursday, Aug. 10 this year, and school closes on May 24.

'We do believe it is important to finish the first semester before Christmas if at all possible,' Ahlfinger said. 'Students take tests when material is fresh on their minds. It is a natural break versus finishing the semester after winter break.'

WISD students are enjoying a two-and-a-half-week winter break.

School sports teams currently observe uniform parameters for practice schedules, and the state has mandated calendar parameters for state-funded colleges and universities.

'Sen. Lucio's bill will simply set beginning and ending parameters,' said Bruno. 'School districts will retain control of holidays, teacher instructional days and when the school year actually starts and ends.'

Ahlfinger says WISD will be watching the bill's progress in the legislature.

'We will be more than willing to work within the parameters,' she repeated. 'I am eager to see how that turns out.'

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