Argument 2.0: public forum fuels the debate over proposed school calendar

CVU students Emily Coffin and Greg Goldman at the Oct. 9 public forum in support of Calendar 2.0.

CVU students Emily Coffin and Greg Goldman at the Oct. 9 public forum in support of Calendar 2.0.

By Rowan Beck

Five Chittenden County Superintendents gathered in Champlain Valley Union High School’s (CVU) theater for an open forum on Oct. 9 to discuss Calendar 2.0, the controversial new school calendar. Despite poor direction and cancelation, the superintendents were met with a full house. Before the presentation, CSSU Superintendent Elaine Pinckney announced Calendar 2.0 was taken off the table for the 2014-15 calendar school year; cheers, whistles, and applause filled the room.

Superintendent John Barone from Milton Town began the forum, stating the calendar had never been finalized nor had it been voted on. Based on gathered information, superintendents decided not to move forward with the proposed calendar for the next school year. “We are listening,” Barone said. “And at no time has this been a proposal to lead to year-round schooling.”

Calendar 2.0 was created to incorporate 175 school days and five development days while minimizing time teachers are out of the classroom. The proposed calendar distributes time more evenly throughout the year, including bad weather days and blocks of time for specific learning. All professional development and parent/teacher conferences would take place during vacations, termed “intersessions.” During intersessions, students in need of personalized learning and re-teaching intervention would receive additional assistance during intersessions. It is yet to be decided who would be teaching these programs. Intersessions could also be used for internships; but for the public, intersessions create a conflict with family vacations.

Audience members requested proof of Calendar 2.0’s potential improvement on quality of education. Audience member Pam Nash noted the lack of statistical difference between the two calendars; she is concerned the two-week breaks would slow learning momentum, especially for a child that needs assistance.

Catlin Waddick, who held a sign reading “Say No to 2.0” for the better part of the forum, asked for a formal and permanent withdrawal of the proposal. Waddick said, “You can’t show the benefits. You haven’t clearly laid out the advantages and disadvantages. You should give equal time to another group to show the detriments of the calendar.”

Audience member Richard Eyre argued that data from the University of Virginia disagrees with a calendar like 2.0. Steve Gladstone stood up and declared, “I don’t want my child to be a test bed for this.”

Few audience members had anything positive to say about 2.0. However, three people spoke to the potential benefits of a new calendar. Susane Trost noted the importance of a two-week break and asked the public to think about the students and not themselves. CVU student Emily Coffin argued that the proposed changes could help her get into college and allow time for an internship. College acceptance is highly competitive, and Calendar 2.0 could ease some of the pressure, she argued – and classmate Greg Goldman agreed. Active in extracurricular activities, sports, and academics, Goldman believes the new calendar could alleviate some of his stress.

But a third CVU student, Sam Gilliam, rebutted, “You can access anything during the regular calendar,” reminding the audience of the Grad Challenge that all seniors must complete in order to graduate. This can be a time to get an internship or pursue another area of interest, she argued. Gilliam did not see the equality in 2.0. “If I’m always here because I need extra help,” Gilliam says, “and my buddies are in France, what is the fairness in that?”

Calendar 2.0 has been put on the back burner for now, and Superintendents will meet again in November. “We are committed to reviewing all the input and having a full and honest discussion about the impacts that such a calendar would have on our families, said Superintendent Pinckney. “We don’t want to lose the engagement that has been generated.”

For more information about Calendar 2.0, visit www.cssu.org.

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