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Board alters school start date; MEA not pleased

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POSTED February 10, 2010 2:52 a.m.
Manteca Unified students will start the 2010-11 school year a week later than previously expected.

Trustees Tuesday approved Aug. 23, 2010 as the first official day of instruction with June 3, 2011 as the last day of school. Thanksgiving will be part of a week-long break.

The board voted 6-0 (Trustee Wendy King was absent due to illness) on the calendar that should be available Friday for public viewing on the district website at www.mantecausd.net . The action was received with less than enthusiastic support from the Manteca Educators Association leadership that represents teachers.

“Our next step is to negotiate our work calendar with the various employee groups,” Superintendent Jason Messer said.

MUSD will have 175 days of classroom instruction rather than 180. The recent state budget agreement allowed temporary flexibility for public schools to go with the reduced days without penalty.

Messer added that the revised calendar provided a better balance of the instruction days during the fall and spring months.

“We’re trying to keep the (instruction days) at the elementary sites as close as possible to the high schools,” he said.

Trustee Vern Gebhardt was concerned of the instructional days under the initial plan that  called for 95 days of school during the fall and 80 for the spring.

In particular, he also believed the two days off during Thanksgiving could amount to a loss of ADA (averaged daily attendance) to the district.

“It’s a short week,” Gebhardt said. “We do lose attendance during Thanksgiving when families pull their child out of school (for the travel day).”

The calendar as originally presented to the board called for Aug. 16 as the first day, June 2 as the last day coupled with a week-long vacation, from Oct. 11 through 15.

Ken Johnson, Manteca Educators Association president, said that the five-member negotiation team spent countless hours working on the calendar. “We looked at Lodi Unified’s modified traditional calendar,” he added.

The October break was designed to give students and educators a much-needed rest after nine straight weeks of instruction.

Johnson recalled how John Fultz took weeks to put together the student calendar, with the negotiation team, in its efforts, following the lead of the retired MUSD director in charge of year-round education and enrollment.

He was none too pleased when the board decided to eliminate the October break, in turn, pushing some of those days to the front of next year’s calendar coupled with the other aforementioned changes.

“In less than 10 minutes, you guys managed to throw out all of our hard work,” Johnson said. “I call this a sign of disrespect.”

Meanwhile, Messer noted that the student calendar is usually presented for board approval in December. “We’re a little late with it this year,” he said.
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