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District in the lurch waiting for Legislature's Labor Day decision

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School District 833 will be ready no matter what bill the Minnesota Legislature passes, or doesn't pass.

At the Feb. 4 school board workshop meeting, Secretary to the Superintendent Mary Amidon, liaison to the district's school calendar committee, presented two calendars.

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Approval of two calendars is expected Feb. 17 because there are two school-year-start bills making their way through the Legislature, Amidon said.

Currently, state law bans school districts from starting before Labor Day in September.

Legislators from northern Minnesota have managed to win enough support from other legislators to keep the no-school-before-Labor Day ban in place to boost resort business, Superintendent Tom Nelson has said each year when the calendar comes up.

Nelson says the decision should be left to individual districts.

This year, trying to fit in the required number of days without having school in the second week of June resulted in school being in session through Dec. 23. before winter break.

The calendar preferred by this year's committee has the 2009-2010 school year beginning on Sept. 1, one week before Labor Day, and ending June 4.

The alternate calendar has school beginning on Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day and ending June 10.

In the preferred calendar, a teacher workshop day is slated for Nov. 30. Board Member Leslee Boyd asked if the committee considered moving it to the day before Thanksgiving to give families more time to travel.

Workshop days are scheduled at the end of trimesters so teachers can finish grading and recording grades, Amidon said.

Superintendent Tom Nelson said district attendance before holidays in 2008 was checked to see if there was a drop in attendance before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

There was no significant difference at Thanksgiving, he said.

There were more absences on Dec. 23 in some schools and not in schools with higher numbers of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches, according to Nelson.

Amidon said districts she talked to are approving two calendars and prefer the before-Labor-Day start.

The Legislature is mulling two bills on the issue, she said. One would mandate a pre-Labor-Day start and the other allows early starts in 2009-2010 and 2010-2011.

"We probably won't know the result until the end of the session," Nelson said.

Weigh in on the Labor Day school-start debate on our Web site at swcbulletin.com.

Judy Spooner can be reached at editor@swcbulletin.com.

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Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600
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