West Linn families upset school year starts on Rosh Hashanah
Following controversy over the first day of next school year landing on the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah, West Linn-Wilsonville board members Chelsea King and Christy Thompson proposed starting the year prior to Labor Day at the Monday, April 5, board meeting.
The proposed amendment to the district's policy ICA, which pertains to setting the school calendar, failed 3-2.
Though she said she was motivated by concerns about the holiday, King said the policy amendment would allow greater flexibility to extend school days into June due to inclement weather or emergencies, give high schoolers more time to study for the SAT and ACT, align the district with others nationally for advanced placement exams, and conform with band and athletic practices that begin before Labor Day.
"I can just speak to the fact that, having three children who are graduating from high school now and who all took AP classes and just that any better advantage that we can give them, there are a lot of school districts across the nation that start back in August. And yet we all take the AP exams at the same time across the nation," Thompson said.
"Some bands and athletic practices are already running before Labor Day starts, and so kids are already back in the schools. Why not be learning at the same time?"
Board member Ginger Fitch asked King why she proposed this now, considering next year's calendar already had been set.
"I know (the policy change) has been something that's been important for the school district, for years, and so this discussion is relevant right now," King said.
Board chair Regan Molatore clarified that the motion was pertaining to a policy change, not a retroactive change to the 2021-22 school calendar. If the proposed amendment were to pass, the board would have to decide when it goes into effect.
"And in that light, again, I was wondering why not bring it forward to the next board?" Fitch said.
Board member Dylan Hydes questioned the motivation behind the proposal.
Members of the Jewish community asked the board to reconsider the 2021-22 start date, as it falls on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest days of the Jewish year. The board has not taken action on the matter.
"Would the two of you be bringing this motion if we hadn't heard the last several weeks from those in the community who were upset about Rosh Hashanah falling on the first day of school?" Hydes said.
King said that hearing from the community motivated her to take action, but emphasized that shifting the school year so that instructional days start before Labor Day is something she's been working toward during her time on the board.
"It's not a new topic for me, and I listen to my public," she said.
In the end, Hydes, Fitch and Molatore opposed the proposal.
"I feel like this action is fraught with potential legal problems. The timing of it puts us in a really difficult spot," Hydes said.
He also said that although the district usually sets its calendar before Labor Day, sometimes the timing of events calls for a different start date, and flexibility is beneficial to the district.
"We had a lot of really good reasons not to start before Labor Day, including huge bond projects at several of our schools and COVID. Having an extra week to get ready for the fall is going to be very useful," he said.
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