Jennifer Wooten, president of the Keystone Local Education Association, said most of the teachers, who voted in favor of starting school early to prepare for new state-mandated tests, were disappointed in the decision.
“Despite concessions made by Keystone Local Education Association to compromise with concerned community members regarding the school calendar, the board has unfortunately chosen to start school following the conclusion of the Lorain County Fair. Even though educationally sound reasoning was presented, the school board made the decision to ignore the voices of the majority of those who represent the high-quality education of the children in our community,” read a statement she issued after the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night. “The only compromise that fair members would have accepted was no compromise at all.”
Although more than 73 percent of the Keystone Local Education Association voted in favor of starting the school year early — a proposal made by Curriculum Director David Kish in response to the Next Generation Assessments that begin next year — parents of students involved in 4-H were upset over the thought of their children missing the Lorain County Fair.
Those parents said the fair also offers valuable learning opportunities, as well as a chance for family to spend time together before the start of school.
Kish’s proposal would have had students starting two days before the Lorain County Fair, with two days off on Monday and Tuesday for all students, although 4-H students would be excused during the week.
The Board of Education also stood divided on the issue but decided a unified decision was best, voting unanimously to adopt the calendar that Keystone has always had — starting classes the Tuesday after the fair.
“Those of us who did maybe agree to changing the calendar this year, agreed to disagree,” said board member Renee Mezera.
Board member Patricia Wakefield said that while the issue sparked debate, it was also positive.
“Both sides were passionate, and everybody had good points, but there is a positive thing that came out of all this hoopla, or whatever it is you want to call it,” she said. “It got people talking and discussing and trying to find some common ground, and we haven’t had that in a long time over an issue.”
Superintendent Jay Arbaugh said he took responsibility for some of the controversy surrounding the issue. He asked Kish to look at calendar options after learning that the Next Generation Assessments, developed by the state of Ohio and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career, would be more lengthy and difficult than tests traditionally given to students.
The tests were developed by the state in an effort to bridge the gap in education levels among states, according to the Ohio Department of Education, who has said Ohio students are testing well below students in other states.
“As superintendent I take full responsibility for the discussion with the calendar that has been the focus of so much interest over the past couple weeks. I asked Mr. Kish, as curriculum director, because of the accelerated calendar and the testing schedule, to take a look at options that would possibly help us prepare kids better … It was just an idea,” he said. “So, I guess, I’m a little disappointed that he had to be berated, because it’s just an idea. And it’s a good idea.”
Arbaugh said he hopes that the community can come together to help pass a levy in May, which would be dedicated to operating costs of the district. He said, while the original calendar was chosen this year, there may be some discussion on next year’s calendar, although the fair is scheduled to start later in the month in 2015.