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School Board adopts calendar

The Bemidji School Board narrowly approved a calendar for the 2008-09 school year that includes a weeklong spring break and a two-day week before winter break.

The board voted 3-2 Monday night to adopt the calendar.

Voting in favor were Ann Long Voelkner, board chairwoman, and board members Carol L. Johnson and Bill Faver. Voting in opposition were board members Steven Johnson and Gene Dillon. Board member John Pugleasa was absent.

"There's been a lot of discussion about it," Superintendent Jim Hess said.

"People had a broad range of opinions," Long Voelkner said.

In February, the board considered two calendars for the upcoming school year. All board members except Steven Johnson favored the calendar approved Monday night over the second proposed calendar in a vote last month by the board.

Steven Johnson said he voted against the calendar Monday night because he opposes a two-day week before winter break. With the calendar, winter break will begin Dec. 24, which is a Wednesday, and continue through Jan. 2.

"There's just no way a two-day school week is very efficient," said Steven Johnson, adding that some staff members also voiced concern about the two-day week.

He said a three-day week would be better. He explained that the school district could create a three-day week at the end of the school year by adding three days of school in the second week of June and giving students and staff members the Monday and Tuesday before winter break off as well as Veteran's Day off.

Carol L. Johnson made a similar suggestion, noting that the school district could have Dec. 22-23 off by having school on holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day. She said students could learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. on the holiday in school.

Dillon said he didn't like the idea of a two-day week. He said he believes many families will be out of town for the holidays on the Monday and Tuesday before winter break even with school in session.

Hess, however, said that having school for those two days could be a positive. He said the schools could then limit their holiday festivities to those two days rather than spread them out over a longer period.

Hess added that having the school year go into the second week of June as suggested by Steven Johnson may create a disadvantage for students looking for summer jobs.

Besides having winter break start Dec. 24 in the upcoming school year, the school district will also have a weeklong spring break from March 9-13. The current school year does not include a spring break.

Hess said people's opinions on whether to have a spring break have been fairly divided, which he said he believes is what prompted a discussion last year by the board on the possibility of having a spring break every other year.

Long Voelkner said having a spring break every other year allows the school district to meet the needs of people on each side of the issue during a course of two years.

Carol L. Johnson agreed that not having a spring break this year while having one next year is a compromise. She noted that setting the school calendar is always difficult.

"You're not going to be able to please everybody," she said.

Besides offering a spring break, the calendar for the 2008-09 school year also differs from the current school year -- and years past -- by moving Bemidji High School's graduation to the Saturday after Memorial Day, May 30. This year, as in several years past, graduation falls on the Saturday before the holiday.

The calendar begins the school year with staff development days Aug. 26-28. No start date for students is specified on the calendar.

Also, the calendar marks June 5 as students' last day of school. The school year will end with a staff clerical day June 8.