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Enumclaw polls parents about calendar

Parents and guardians in the Enumclaw School District had an opportunity to put their two cents in regarding midwinter break, and it was as easy as pressing a button.

Leaders at the Enumclaw School District used its messenger phone service to send out calls during the evening hours of Sept. 16. Each household was given the chance to vote in favor of keeping the district’s midwinter break or tossing it aside.

In May, the Enumclaw School Board rejected the district and Enumclaw Education Association’s 2010-11 school calendar because it contained the traditional one-week break in February. Board members said they heard parents would like to do away with the break and asked the two sides to come back with a calendar that did not include it. That has not happened yet.

The telephone survey was designed to help the district, association and board grab hold of more specific numbers for and against the break.

“I think we’re going to get a good enough sampling to get concrete data,” Superintendent Mike Nelson said.

Every family was to get a vote. The “automated calls” went to the 2,877 households with children enrolled in the Enumclaw School District.

According to Nelson, midwinter break was an educational trend started about 20 years ago and was adopted by school districts across the state.

At that time, he said, it was designed to make the transition to year-round school or shorten summer vacation to help students’ retention.

In the past few years, districts across the state have been eliminating it from their calendars.

The proposed 2010-11 Enumclaw calendar presented to the board in May called for a midwinter break beginning after the Presidents Day holiday Feb. 22 and running through Feb. 25. It would be seven weeks after a two-week winter break and five weeks before the week-long spring break.

Some districts, like neighboring White River, are moving to a shorter version of the time off, wrapping a Friday and Tuesday away from the classroom around the Presidents Day holiday.

The shortened midwinter break allows for an earlier end to the school year.

The Enumclaw School Board’s decision to send the calendar back does not change the 2009-10 calendar which does include a Feb. 16 through 19 midwinter break that begins right after Presidents’ Day Feb. 15.

The last day of school for the 2009-10 school year is scheduled to be June 18.

The EEA approved the calendar with a 58 percent vote and, according to President Mike Sando, would like the board to honor this calendar.

He said his organization negotiated the calendar in good faith with district leadership and believes the procedure, the process, and precedence for this calendar should be honored.

The poll, he said, is valuable and informative, for the next round of discussion. He would like to see the board approve the 2010-11 calendar as presented, and the two sides can discuss midwinter break options for the 2011-12 calendar during negotiations in the spring.

Results were tabulated Thursday and 1,200 parents participated in the survey with 55 percent perferring a shortened midwinter break.

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