Chesterton Tribune



New school calendar to end first semester before winter break

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The Duneland School Board is in support of starting the school year earlier with the tradeoff of students and teachers not having to worry about final exams over winter break.

At its meeting Monday, the board voted unanimously to set its 2017-18 school calendar with students starting on Monday, Aug. 14. The first semester will then end on Friday, Dec. 22 and let out for winter break, ending the tradition of coming back to take exams in January.

Duneland Schools Superintendent David Pruis said the seven school corporations that make up the Porter County Education Services met earlier on Monday to discuss school calendars. Duneland is one of the school corporations that have explored the benefits, and drawbacks, of adopting a “balanced” calendar that would begin classes at the beginning of August and have longer breaks.

While that type of balanced calendar probably won’t be fully implemented for a few years yet, board member Mike Trout said, this seems like a “tiny step” toward that.

Pruis said Valparaiso Schools and East Porter Schools have also shown interest in the proposed calendar. Schools in the Porter County Education Services routinely keep the same calendars because they all share satellite programs for special education and vocational training.

Schools started earlier than usual for the current school year, with students starting on Wednesday, Aug. 17. The last day of first semester is Friday, Jan. 13 with Monday, Jan. 16 as a grading day for teachers.

Other dates in the 2017-18 calendar are Friday, Oct. 27 for Fall Break, no school Friday, Nov. 3, for the week of parent/teacher conferences, Nov. 22-24, for Thanksgiving break, and Wednesday, March 27-31 for spring break. Feb. 16 and April 20 are marked for snow make-up days and Friday, May 25 as the last day of classes, unless there are any more snow make-up days. The 2018 Chesterton High School commencement will be Thursday, May 31.

In 2018, the second semester would start on Monday, Jan. 8, but the grading/recording date would be Jan. 15 so students would have Martin Luther King Jr. Day off, Pruis said. That point drew the most discussion by the board and members of the Duneland Teachers Association.

“Logistically, it makes no sense,” CHS History teacher and DTA supporter Bob DeRuntz, said from the audience Monday. He said it struck him as odd to have teachers jump into the second semester while still trying to wrap up first semester matters.

Pruis said it is optional to have the grading day on Jan. 8 instead. “If it matters to the DTA, we should do it the way you guys want.”

Board member John Marshall said he imagines there are many teachers who would prefer Jan. 15 as the grading day so they don’t have to worry at all about grades until after the holiday.

DeRuntz said there are pros and cons to the options but said he understood the point made by Marshall.

Trout said the board can try out having the grading day be Jan. 15 and change it the following year if there are problems.

Board member Brandon Kroft said there will probably be many families gone for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as many people have the day off to observe the holiday.

The board then voted 5-0 to accept the calendar.

ALS Club

The Westchester Intermediate American Sign Language Club (ALS), which was started last school year by educational interpreter Mary Skube and Duneland teachers Courtney Kozinski and Becky Holmen, made a presentation to the board during the meeting.

Kozinski led the presentation with a PowerPoint and videos of WIS students explaining why they chose to be a part of the club, what they hope to accomplish and what their favorite sign is. Students said they aspire to speak with friends and family who are hearing impaired and to teach others to sign so they can communicate with the deaf.

ASL is the third most used language behind English and Spanish, Kozinski said, and is growing in usage. The WIS club has 50 members in fifth and sixth grade, some of whom attended the meeting.

There are six hearing impaired students at the school and the club has helped build friendships and make those students feel more included, Kozinski said.

One parent said it has “worked a miracle” for her daughter and boosted her self esteem.

“She feels acceptance. She comes home happy every day,” said the parent. “Thank you guys and I hope you will be able to continue the ASL club for other kids.”

Kozinski said the club is planning to host another event after the success of the ASL Game Night last spring co-sponsored by the Purdue Northwest ASL Club.




Posted 12/13/2016




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