Parents stand divided on early school start

POULSBO — Students in the North Kitsap School District are wrapping up their summer a little earlier than usual this year.

The district will begin classes before Labor Day weekend, on Sept. 1. The early start is a departure from the traditional school calendar, in which classes begin the Wednesday after Labor Day.

The school board approved the early start date at an April 8 meeting, after considering recommendations from a group of parents, teachers and administrators. The group, called the Time Task Force, presented rationale for both a Sept. 1 and a Sept. 8 start date.

The board cited several reasons for settling on the Sept. 1 start date, and said the added cost — about $23,000 in Labor Day holiday pay for classified staff — was worth paying.

The board chose the Sept. 1 start to allow students to receive an extra four days of instruction before taking proficiency exams and Advanced Placement tests in the spring.

The extra instruction days would put North Kitsap students on a more even footing with their peers throughout Kitsap County and the state during the tests. Most neighboring school districts and the West Sound Technical Skills Center begin classes on Sept. 1. The South Kitsap School District is the only district in the county that begins classes after Labor Day this year, with a Sept. 8 start date.

Parent reactions to the early start date have been split.

“I haven’t heard many negative comments on school beginning early,” Monica Black, a Poulsbo Elementary parent and former president of the North Kitsap High PTA, said in an email. “And while it is only a few days earlier, I think it’s the mindset that, ‘We’ve always started after Labor Day,’ that makes this calendar change a bit annoying.”

Many parents see the change as positive or inconsequential.

“I think starting earlier is no big deal. What’s a few days?” Dorothy Webb, co-president of the Wolfle Elementary PTA, said in an email.

Some parents appreciate the early start because it allows their children to slowly transition back into school mode. The first three weeks of school start on a Wednesday, Tuesday and Monday, respectively.

“Personally, I like having a three-day, four-day, five-day start to the school year,” Becky Wallace, president of the Vinland Elementary PTA, said in an email. “It seems to make the year easier to ease into for our house.”

Some families would like to maintain the later start date, savoring the Labor Day weekend as summer’s last hurrah.

“It seems to be a tradition to have school start after Labor Day, allowing families to have their time together before big schedule changes,” Vinland PTA member Mary Tanner said in an email.

“I feel the best weather is in August and September,” Tanner added. “Where we live, we need to squeeze as many pleasant days out of this time of year as possible.”

The school district also chose the early start date because it allows for an easier transition for military families who come from other states where school often begins before Labor Day. In addition, the early start causes a greater number of practices for fall sports to occur during the school year instead of interrupting summer break.

The early start also means students will be released from school on June 10 next year, more than a week earlier than the 2010 release date. The school board cited this as another reason for starting school early, saying it allows high school students to begin summer employment earlier than usual.

“I am all for starting early. It means we get out earlier,” Gordon Elementary PTA vice president Heather Snelson said in an email. “I think if we keep to it in the future everyone will get used to it.”

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