School began earlier this year
The reasoning behind the schedule change
By Pauline Ojambo, Talon Staff Writer
The high was 82 F, the low 61 and the breeze drifted by at a lazy six miles per hour, according to www.wunderground.com, a website that keeps weather history. That day was August 25. The Minnehaha Academy school year began.
August 25 is not the regular start-time for our school. Minnehaha began earlier this year. We began three days earlier than the previous start, while St. Paul public schools began on September 6. Though those three days seemed insignificant, it did affect aspects of the school year. Christmas break will be later in the year, the usual June Term experience will now be held in March and will be known as Cultural Field Experience, AP testing results may change and the last day of school will also be a few days earlier than other years.
Why So Early?
“We were trying something different,” said Minnehaha Academy Principal Nancy Johnson. School will now end on June 1. Christmas break will also be a bit different; finals will be wrapped up before Christmas break in December but, Christmas break will begin on December 22 and end on January 9. The semester will end at Christmas and assignments will continue after break.
“Students need a break,” Upper School Vice Principal Mike DiNardo said. Minnehaha students now don’t need to worry about studying for finals during Christmas break. “[It’s] more like college,” DiNardo said.
Another change in the school schedule is the Cultural Field Experience formally known as June Term. Though CFE will now occur the week before spring break, Minnehaha will be able to partner with more schools. Last year during June, some school partnerships were not available, because their school year had already ended. Another benefit involving the CFE program is the cost for certain sites.
“[The] international trips have better prices in March,” DiNardo said.
The idea behind the CFE change is that students will be able to enjoy the experience even more because there will be a higher quality of the CFE program. More time will be available to debrief during school (in chapel), which would lead to more learning.
While making the schedule change, the sports schedule and AP testing schedule had to be considered.
“[The calendar change] doesn’t affect the athletic schedule,” Nancy Johnson said. Further observations are yet to be noticed, especially involving spring sports. Students will be out of school and sports will still continue.
Another benefit is the affect it will have on AP testing.
“There will be more instructing time and more time to prepare,” Johnson said.
Teachers will be able to have more time to get through instructional material.
“We knew since last fall about the schedule change,” Johnson said, “It was something I actually promoted.”
DiNardo and Johnson worked on the project for a couple of years. The change involved the Minnehaha faculty, students and parents. All grades had to begin on August 25, Pre K through 12.
“It could have been earlier,” DiNardo said, “[but] we had to consider graduation and baccalaureate, there was no way to get out before Memorial Day.”
Will beginning school earlier affect how many days off we have?
The number days Minnehaha Students have off will remain the same, but some rearranging had to be done to even out first and second semester.
“Second semester usually is longer, but also has more field trips, bad weather and AP exams, so we tried to balance it out and added five extra days off,” DiNardo said.
As DiNardo explained, second semester is usually longer than first in the number of days. A way to fix that was to take some school days off (teacher workshops), and shift them later into second semester.
Why do other schools begin school at different times?
Minnesota’s public schools have to begin after Labor Day by legislation. January 26, 2010, Valeria S. Silva, the St. Paul District superintendent, sent the proposed 2010 – 2011 School calendar to the board of education. She wrote, “At this time administration does not intend to seek an exception from the legislature to start school prior to Labor Day weekend.”
One reason why St. Paul Public Schools begin school after Labor Day involves the timing of the State Fair.
“The State Fair makes it difficult to get buses out in any regular fashion. Most of the bus garages are close to the Fairgrounds and many bus routes go right by the fair grounds,” Como Park principal Dan Mesick said, “We are used to it, and it has become a tradition.”
Though beginning school after Labor Day may be a tradition, Mesick admitted to a disadvantage of the timing.
“We have to go later into June,” Mesick said, and though that disadvantage is prominent, an advantage to beginning later is the weather.
“It’s not as hot, usually,” Mesick said.
Minnehaha Principal Nancy Johnson completely believes in the decision to begin school earlier.
“It’s a great idea,” Johnson said.
“Getting out early is the big thing,” DiNardo said.