School board approves fifth district pre-Labor Day start

Published 8:54 pm Monday, December 16, 2019

Albert Lea Area Schools students will start the 2020-21 school year before Labor Day for a fifth year, as approved by the school board on Monday.

The board voted 4-2 for new teachers to come to school for workshops Aug. 10 through 12, 2020, and the rest of staff to start Aug. 13. Sixth and eighth graders will have orientations Aug. 19, and then classes will begin Aug. 20 for all students. The last student day will be May 26, 2021.

Board members Dennis Dieser, Dave Klatt, Ken Peterson and Kim Nelson voted in favor of the calendar, while board members Angie Hanson and Jill Marin voted against. Board member Neal Skaar was absent.

Email newsletter signup

New for the school year is an additional day off for students and staff before Thanksgiving and the day before Christmas Eve, which Executive Director of Teaching and Learning Mary Jo Dorman said staff are excited about and will also be beneficial for families and staff who travel during the holidays.

Teachers also requested one professional development day be moved from the start of the school year to Feb. 15, 2021. Dorman said. Elementary conferences will be held over two days in both October and February — in the evening one day for four hours and a separate day for 12 hours — instead of being spread out over three days.

Spring break will be the week of March 15, 2021.

The calendar has elementary school students slated to attend 172 days and secondary students 174. There are 186 staff days.

Klatt said the teachers and administrators he has talked to have said that after the district’s first year with an early start, the adjusted calendar has received nothing but positive reviews. He said the teachers told him the extra instruction students get at the start is beneficial.

Petersen said the feedback he had received had also been favorable of the early start. He noted he thinks the community has gotten used to it, and he thinks it has worked well.

Hanson acknowledged while it’s nice to be done with the first semester at winter break, she said she thinks students should start after Labor Day. She also said she thinks the two semesters should be comparable in length and was concerned that finals coincided with a hectic activities schedule.

Marin said when the district first moved to the early start calendar, the main reason was for increased student learning.

“The pattern is moving the opposite direction,” she said, adding she has received negative feedback from the community.

Marin and Hanson asked that the calendar be considered earlier next year, saying it would be beneficial for families to have it approved earlier.