Monday, October 2, 2017


Each year, the Boise School District Calendar Committee recommends a calendar for the following school year to the Board of Trustees at their regularly scheduled October 9 Board Meeting.  

This past year, as part of that process, the Calendar Committee looked at the potential of adopting a calendar that would end the first semester prior to the Winter Holiday Break and the school year prior to the Memorial Day weekend.  This proposal was made for a number of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Students would be able to complete End of Course Assessments prior to their break, allowing them to rest and not worry about studying for finals or completing projects;
  • Students would get a fresh start for second semester after the break.
  • Teachers would be able to be more efficient with instruction, preventing the need in January to re-teach material due.
  • Allow students to have more days of instruction before standardized and Advanced Placement testing in the spring;
  • Mirror what is done at most colleges and universities with first semester ending before Winter Holiday Break and second semester starting after;
  • Eliminate days from the District Calendar that traditionally have poor attendance. The District’s traditional calendar ends the school year in early June.  By ending school prior to Memorial Day weekend, we ensure that we receive maximum funding from the State for instructional purposes.

After careful consideration of more than 11 versions of potential calendars, the Calendar Committee surveyed staff, parents and patrons to gauge their level of support for the new calendar.  We wrote about the results of that survey in our June 13, 2017 blog post.  In summary, the results of the poll showed that 85% of Boise District patrons and staff were in favor of a proposal in which first semester would end prior to the Winter Holiday Break and the school year would end the weekend before the Memorial Day holiday.  The survey included responses from 4,991 individuals,  1,706 of which were Boise School District staff and and 3,285 that were from patrons and parents.

With this response, the calendar committee proceeded with developing a 2018-2019 school year calendar that would accomplish the very clear objective of ending the first semester prior to the Winter Holiday Break.  

Support for Ending the First Semester Prior to the Winter Holiday Break, but Not for an Earlier Start Date
During the course of the summer, an online campaign titled Save Idaho Summers was started by a water park in Meridian, to oppose an earlier August start date.  Following the start of that campaign, the District began receiving feedback from constituents opposed to the new calendar.  As a result of that feedback, the District launched an online public comment page on our website in August and held two focus groups in September. While it was clear that there was considerable support for ending the first semester prior to the Winter Holiday Break, many patrons did not want to start the school year earlier.

A Compromise Calendar Developed

With that in mind, the Boise School District Calendar Committee has proposed a modified calendar that will allow us to respect the overwhelming support to end the first semester prior to the Winter Holiday Break, yet maintain the traditional school start date after the third weekend in August.

We were able to accomplish this by:

  • Eliminating the October In-Service Days and making those days instructional days.
    • In considering this change, it is important to remember that the state does not mandate in-service days. Historically, many schools have set aside the first Thursday and Friday of October for staff development to allow their staff to attend regional and state in-service meetings.
    • Moving forward, staff who want to attend state conferences on those days will be able to submit for a professional leave day.

  • Adding two teacher contract days, dedicated to classroom preparation and professional development, prior to the start of school to offset the loss of October In-Service day.

  • Establishing a calendar that has fewer days in the first semester than the second semester.
    • A slightly longer second semester will increase instructional days previously lost to end-of-year activities and to mandated standardized testing.

In reviewing several alternatives, the Calendar Committee believes that the latest proposed calendar contains many benefits for students, including:

  • Optimizes instructional time in October by providing more consistency in instructional days
  • Protects the full week of Thanksgiving Break. Experience shows that by only taking two and half days at Thanksgiving results in poor attendance due to families traveling and would not be beneficial from an instructional or financial point of view.
  • Ends the school year prior to the Memorial Day weekend

Suggestion to Start School After Labor Day Raises Serious Concerns

After the District released information regarding the compromise Calendar, some patrons insisted that the District adopt a calendar that starts the school year after Labor Day.  In order to accomplish this, the District  would have to lengthen the school day or extend the school year later into June. There are a number of reasons why this idea raises concerns:

  • Loss of educational information -- according to the National Summer Learning Association, students can lose up to three months of Math and Reading skills over the course of the summer (often referred to as “Summer Slide”). Extending the length of the Summer Vacation worsens this issue and has a disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable students.  

  • Increased financial burden for parents -- extending the length of the summer has a significant financial impact on parents who pay for daycare during the summer months.

  • Loss of safety and security -- for many of our students, school is the safest place they can go. Longer summer breaks are not in the best interest of students living in poverty for a number of reasons, including access to healthy and reliable breakfasts and lunch programs.

  • Reduction in quality instructional time -- starting after Labor Day reduces the number of instructional days students have prior to end-of-year state controlled testing dates (ISAT and IRI) and College Board mandated Advanced Placement (AP) exam dates.  Extending school into mid-June would result in a significant amount of instructional time taking place after those exams.

Thanks to the work of our staff and the input from our parents, we believe that the Board will be able to consider a proposed calendar that truly has the best interests of our students -- of all backgrounds -- and our community as a whole, in mind.