Terry Falk
K-12 Education

MPS Seeks To Revise School Calendar

Seeking earlier start to 2024-25 school year for elementary students, creating a uniform calendar for system.

By - Jun 26th, 2023 01:24 pm
Riverwest Elementary School, 2765 N. Fratney St. Photo taken March 30th, 2021 by Dave Reid.

Riverwest Elementary School, 2765 N. Fratney St. Photo by Dave Reid.

If your family is planning a big vacation at the end of August next year, and you have children in an elementary Milwaukee school, you might want to rethink your plans.

By August 2024, Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) might adopt one school calendar for all children — elementary and secondary — in the system, with planning for this change beginning this fall. That was the message from school superintendent Keith Posley to the school board at its June 22 meeting. “Whether it be parents, whether it be staff, even students, there was a strong interest in moving to one calendar,” said Adria Maddaleni, chief of human resources.

The fact that elementary schools start and end later than high schools has been frustrating to many parents. School board director Megan O’Halloran noted that she struggles with having her own children operating on different school calendars.

State law requires that public schools start their regular calendar no earlier that September 1. This is a concession to the tourist industry which relies on high school-age workers and to families who plan vacations in Wisconsin during the final week of summer.

Back in 2016, then-Milwaukee superintendent Darienne Driver, with support of the MPS school board, was able to obtain a waiver from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to allow MPS high schools to begin earlier, in late August, in 2017. The rationale was twofold. First, it would give high school students more time to prepare for the ACT college entrance exams and for those taking International Baccalaureate tests for college credit. Secondly, it would allow the district to end the school year at an earlier date, allowing the flexibility to run an early summer school program for students needing additional academic support. But the district was not able to secure such a waiver for elementary schools, leaving the system with two different schedules.

Maddaleni said that, this spring, the district reached out to DPI about a waiver for elementary school and trying to have a uniform schedule. “DPI has said to us, come up with two or three options that we think will fit with the needs of our schools, with our students,” she noted. Thus, the district is “going to have to develop a committee, cross-departmental teams, different stakeholders… we will pose a survey to all stakeholders to get their feedback on which one would be the preference.”

“The sticking point is going to be which calendar,” says Maddaleni. Some in the school community want to start after Labor Day; others want to finish by Memorial Day. Doing both is nearly impossible given the required instructional minutes required by state statutes.

There’s also the question of how soon the decision must be made. School board director Missy Zombor noted that parents are planning vacations a year in advance. “When is the month to say we have new days?”

“November,” responded Maddaleni. Parents and school communities should be receiving surveys no later than early October, she said. Their input will help determine which schedule MPS moves to adopt.

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