Update: Boise School District hosts focus groups on proposed calendar change

Swimmers at Roaring Springs Water Park. The water park wants the Boise School District to leave its calendar the way it is and not start classes a week earlier in August.
Swimmers at Roaring Springs Water Park. The water park wants the Boise School District to leave its calendar the way it is and not start classes a week earlier in August. Provided by Wahooz/Roaring Springs

(Sept. 5) The Boise School District is hosting two public focus groups where members of the community can learn more about proposed changes to the school schedule. The district is considering starting the school on Aug. 15, a week earlier in the 2018-19 school year.

Focus groups will take place from 6-7 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 5 at Whitney Elementary School, 1609 S. Owyhee St. and from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 6 at Lowell Elementary School, 1507 N. 28th St.

RSVP online.

Here is a past update about the new web page taking public comment:

The Boise School District is welcoming public comment on the proposal to start each school year on Aug. 15, one week earlier than usual, beginning in 2018.

The district is taking comment through a new web page at boiseschools.org.

The school board expects to decide on the proposed schedule change in October. A local group, the Save Idaho Summers Coalition, led by Wahooz Family Fun Zone, is leading an effort to keep the schedule the same.

Here is the Idaho Statesman's July 31 article about the proposed change:

A Meridian recreation business is speaking out against the Boise School District’s proposal to start the 2018-19 school year on Aug. 15 — a week earlier than its current start.

Superintendent Don Coberly made the case for the earlier start in a June blog post. An earlier start, he said, would end the first semester before, rather than after, winter break. It would mean more instruction time before standardized and advanced-placement tests in the spring. It would also mean the school year would end before Memorial Day.

But mid-August is one of the busiest times of the year for the Wahooz Family Fun Zone, which includes the Roaring Springs water park on West Overland Road near Meridian Road. Spokeswoman Tiffany Quilici said the earlier starting week is “super hot and the perfect time to come” to the water park.

Wahooz is reaching out to other businesses and organizations to join the Save Idaho Summers Coalition and help persuade the district to leave the schedule alone.

An earlier end to the school year would be no consolation, Quilici said: “In May and June, the weather is still uncertain for us,” she said.

She said an earlier start could also hurt participation in events like the Western Idaho Fair (this year from Aug. 18-27), where children show animals and participate in other activities though 4-H and Future Farmers of America.

The coalition has hired a public relations and marketing firm, Strategies 360. It also has started a petition drive on the change.org website.

The water park already reduces hours the third week of August, because most of its summer employees are high school students who head back to school then.

If the district adopted the new calendar, the summer of 2018 would be shorter than normal, since school would let out under the old calendar on June 1, 2018 and resume under the new calendar on Aug. 15. The last day of school in 2018 would be May 24, the Friday before Memorial Day.

The new calendar would keep the weeklong Thanksgiving and spring breaks and the two-week winter holiday break. The amount of instruction time would not change.

Bishop Kelly, Boise’s private Catholic high school, adopted an earlier school start date about a decade ago. The change has been popular, said Principal Mike Caldwell.

“It’s always tough coming back in August, no matter what,” Caldwell said. But he and others like being able to finish their semester before the holiday break and starting fresh in January.

Many students at BK and across the Boise district are involved in extracurricular activities, including sports like football and soccer that start their practices around the first week of August. Those students, Caldwell said, are back in school anyway and benefit from the earlier start.

The West Ada School District considered an earlier start to the school year some years ago, spokesman Eric Exline said. The district surveyed the community and decided against the earlier start after hearing objections from parents and businesses, including the water park.