Kenwood Elementary parents upset by potential calendar switch

Kenwood Elementary parents upset by potential calendar switch

CHAMPAIGN — A proposed calendar change for Kenwood Elementary for the next two school years might help with a tight construction timeline as the school is renovated.

However, some parents are concerned about what the change would mean to their families and whether the school district is considering their input.

The Champaign school district last week announced it is thinking about switching Kenwood — which has been on a so-called balanced calendar since 1995 — to a regular school calendar.

Kenwood has long been scheduled as the last elementary school to be renovated with money from the school facilities sales tax. Last year, the school district renovated Westview Elementary. This year, Bottenfield Elementary is being renovated, and Robeson Elementary is being renovated in phases; the first is complete, and the next is scheduled for next summer.

Last year, students and teachers at Westview attended school at the former Carrie Busey Elementary on Kirby Avenue, as their building was being renovated. Bottenfield students and teachers moved there this school year.

Champaign Superintendent Judy Wiegand said those moves happen on a tight time frame. This year, work was still being completed at Westview just before school started in August.

Bottenfield is scheduled to move back to its building on Prospect Avenue next August. However, because Kenwood is on a balanced calendar, its students start school in July, Wiegand said.

She said the school district has also heard from teachers who have moved from one building to another that the timeline is tight for getting their classrooms set up before school starts.

Wiegand said Kenwood's renovation will be on the same scale as the one at Westview. It calls for renovating all of the school's classrooms and the school office, and adding a new gym.

Wiegand said the proposed changes do not include keeping Kenwood a regular-calendar school after the renovation.

While students on a balanced calendar attend school for the same number of days, their school year is different from a traditional August-through-May schedule. Balanced-calendar schools start in July. Students get a three-week break in fall and spring, a two-week break in winter and a six-week break in summer.

Kenwood PTA President Terra Larsen said she has heard from parents who are frustrated that their input wasn't considered when the proposed calendar change came up last week and feel such a change would disrupt their lives.

Wiegand said she's aware the topic has caused some concern. She said the school district will consider everyone's opinion.

"We will take some time and talk through the different issues and make sure parents and teachers are (being) heard," she said.

The school district has scheduled a meeting to discuss the possible change that will include Kenwood PTA's Larsen, as well as building and district administrators, the building's union stewards and the school district's capital improvements supervisor.

The school district must also bargain on the proposed calendar change with the union that represents Kenwood's faculty members before the school board can take action, Wiegand said.

Champaign Federation of Teachers President Cathy Mannen said she can't comment on the issue specifically, because the union hasn't yet received a proposal.

But she said the union submitted what's called a "demand to bargain" request regarding any possible calendar changes.

"A demand to bargain is submitted when the employer is attempting to or proposing to make a change in working conditions, wages or hours," Mannen said. "Because we have a collective-bargaining agreement with the district, changes in working conditions, wages or hours need to be negotiated with the union."

Wiegand said any final decision on changing the calendar during Kenwood's renovation would be approved by the school board after bargaining with Champaign Federation of Teachers.

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Joe American wrote on September 10, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Life is unfair, people.  Move on.