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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, November 08, 2018 1:00 am

SACS school year to start earlier

Aug. 5 first day of 2020-21 calendar

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

At a glance

Southwest Allen County Schools' calendar for the 2020-21 academic year includes these key dates:

Aug. 5 – First student day

Oct. 5 to 9 – Fall break

Dec. 21 to Jan. 1 – Winter break

March 29 to April 2 – Spring break

May 25 – Last day for students

The first day of school will come earlier for Southwest Allen County Schools students beginning in 2020.

In a narrow vote – and against input from staff, students, parents and community members – school board members Tuesday approved a 2020-21 district calendar that begins Aug. 5 in exchange for a five-day break in October.

There was no indication Wednesday that Southwest Allen's decision will prompt changes in other Allen County districts.

“We are aware of what SACS is doing, but we have not had the opportunity to discuss internally with board and staff,” said Tamyra Kelly, spokeswoman for East Allen County Schools.

According to a 2020-21 calendar posted on its website, East Allen will begin classes the week after Southwest Allen. Northwest Allen County Schools and Fort Wayne Community Schools also are tentatively scheduled to begin the same week as East Allen, the districts' spokeswomen said.

“We have no interest in changing at this point,” Northwest Allen spokeswoman Lizette Downey said.

Southwest Allen surveyed community members about two calendar choices before the school board vote. Of the 2,493 participants, 56 percent favored the traditional calendar, which would start the academic year Aug. 12.

Students and teachers generally supported the fall break option while parents generally liked the traditional option.

Board members Tom Rhoades, Brad Mills and Mark Gilpin voted for the fall break calendar. Meagan Milne and Jennifer Couch opposed it. The board remained civil while discussing the issue, Superintendent Phil Downs said. He noted they had valid reasons supporting their positions.

“That's how boards are supposed to work,” he said.

In other business Tuesday, the school board selected MKM architecture + design and CSO Architects for the Homestead High School project.

The project's scope – either a large renovation or construction of a new building – hasn't been set, Downs said, noting that's part of the firms' task.

More details should be known in March. That's when the district plans to hold a public hearing about the cost of the project, Downs said.

Construction likely won't start until summer 2020 at the earliest, he said.

The board also approved the 2018-19 teacher contract. The district received a 2 percent increase in per-student funding from the state, and that in turn should result in a 2 percent average increase to employee groups, Downs said.