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Shorter Summer Vacation Means Adjustments

School starting sooner to accomodate construction of new high school

If it feels like summer is flying by, imagine what it feels like to a student.

They go back to school in just over a month, on August 16.

In reality, the students are only starting the school year five school days earlier than usual, said Superintendant Dan Keenan. But throw in a weekend, and the school year's starting a week earlier than normal.

"It doesn't sound like much until you hear the date August 16," Keenan said.

Planning ahead

Why is this happening? It's to accomodate the construction of the new .

Starting the school year earlier means -- if all goes well and there aren't a lot of snow days -- school could be out at the end of May. The 2013-14 school year starts on Sept. 3, 2013.

That would give the district three months to move everything from the current high school to the new one, and demolish the old school, before students return.

"It's going to be a lot of work," Keenan said. "But we don't want to be tearing down a building when school is in session."

Not everything will be done by the start of school in 2013. The parking lots will need to be finished, and the current temporary lots will then be turned into athletic fields.

This was planned two years ago, with some tweaks to the calendar after input from parents and staff, Keenan said.

"People have had plenty of time to prepare, which has made this easier," Keenan said.

Challenges ahead

Even with planning, starting a week earlier makes for some challenges.

New human resources director Anne Pyros and new business director David Kocevar, , start on August 1. On August 2, district adminstrators go on a retreat, where they analyze the data from the state report card. Teachers won't be getting data from the report until just as the school year starts.

"It's not ideal," Keenan said. "But we have great staff. They'll make it work."

Fall sports teams will also be challenged by the early start. While other high school sports teams will be having practices, sometimes two a day, Westlake's athletes will be in class. Ditto for Westlake's marching band.

And, if the summer heat holds, there are going to be some long days. None of the elementary schools and only part of the high school and middle school have air conditioning. The district has purchased fans, Keenan said, and will make sure students are provided with water.

"And, with more water, comes more bathroom breaks," Keenan added.

Adjustments will be made, Keenan said. Gym classes will be modified to prevent overexertion on very hot days. If the heat is extreme, the district may have to use calamity days.

On the plus side

There are some good things about starting earlier, Keenan said. Teachers will have more time with students before assessment tests. The semesters will be more evenly split.

Winter break is long, going from Dec. 21 through Jan 8.

And there are those three months off to look forward to next summer.

"I know some families are planning special, long vacations for next year," Keenan said.

FreeIsNotEasy July 11, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Hopefully they will at least have the busing back running for the High School. That was a TOTAL cluster mess last year!!! Much less all the inconvenience to a TON of parents. We were all just lucky that it was a mild winter with not a lot of bad road conditions. Love that Westlake is an excellent, forward-thinking system but over and above ANY extra-curricular activities, clubs, new school, etc, money should be spent on the most important thing... getting the kids TO the school to learn. Whether combining Burneson & High School routes together, or some other option, there had to be a BETTER way to keep and utilize the buses for the HS students. School in a month already... sigh.

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