September 23, 2014

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Keystone proposes starting school year earlier

LAGRANGE — Those involved with 4-H are concerned with a proposal made by Keystone Schools Curriculum Director David Kish to start school earlier than usual.

Superintendent Jay Arbaugh said the school year traditionally starts the Monday after the Lorain County Fair, which this year is scheduled to run Aug. 18 through 24. But after state-mandated changes to education requirements, Kish proposed moving the school start date up to better prepare students for additional tests.

The school board, however, agreed to table a discussion on changing the calendar for the next school year. The school board will meet 6 p.m. Monday at the high school to discuss school calendar proposals before the regular board meeting and plan to vote on a proposal during its meeting 6 p.m. Feb. 18.

Parents Tony and Laura Monyak, who attended a Monday night Board of Education meeting, asked the school board to consider other options so that students involved in 4-H wouldn’t have to miss the Lorain County Fair.

The Monyaks, and other parents whose children are involved in 4-H, said the organization provides a working environment for students interested in agriculture. Students involved in 4-H may show animals or present a project, which requires them to stay at the fair throughout the day, cleaning and preparing the animals and pens.

Laura Monyak said education is important, but so are spending time with family and participating in community organizations.

“This is kids trying to enjoy the summer weather, to enjoy Ohio weather,” Laura Monyak told the school board. “It’s more than 4-H. It’s giving families their time together.”

Kish said he is not opposed to 4-H, but he is concerned with the additional requirements for students, which begin next school year.

“I am not, by any means, a 4-H hater,” he said. “My son is in 4-H. Even though I was never in 4-H myself, my son does a great job at it.”

Kish said an earlier start to the school year would better prepare students for Next Generation Assessments, new career and college-ready standards that were adopted by the state, and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. The first round of new tests is to be given next February, despite the school’s start date, and is more rigorous and lengthy that tests previously given, he said.

“It is attractive to start a little bit earlier, because it gives all of our kids, hopefully, a better chance, an increased chance,” he said.

Kish is supported by the Keystone Local Education Association. According to KLEA President Jennifer Wooten, more than 73 percent of the group’s members voted in favor of an earlier start date.

“Our priority is the education of our children,” she said. “The teachers realize that change can be difficult, and we understand that this new calendar may not appeal to everyone. However, this change is especially important since new and more difficult testing will begin this year. The calendar adjustment will give students a greater opportunity for success.”

Kish said school districts are feeling the pressure of the new assessments, which include a seven-part test for kindergarten students. He said districts across the state have met with local leaders to protest the new guidelines.

He is holding a curriculum meeting for the public 7 p.m. Feb. 11 in Keystone High School’s cafeteria. The meeting will explain new state guidelines.

On Monday, parents suggested getting rid of spring break, allowing for excused absences for 4-H members and giving 4-H members time during the week to meet with teachers and get their assignments.

Adam Cordy, a senior at Keystone High School and 4-H member, said he opposes an earlier start date, even if 4-H members are excused.

“That’s just going to put you a couple days behind,” he said.

Cordy, who was not in attendance at Monday’s meeting, said 4-H provides valuable hands-on learning experiences, such as lessons in responsibility and leadership, that aren’t learned in the classroom.

About 12 percent, or 200 students at Keystone Schools, are involved in 4-H, according to the school district.

Contact Chelsea Miller at 329-7123 or cmiller@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @ChelseaMillerCT.

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  • yyy

    Avon doesn’t care – they start at the end of fair week – the kids just miss those days if they want to participate in the fair.

  • Toad

    kids probably learn more in 4h bout life then they would in a couple more days in a school class

    they learn to be responcible and work hard